By Christina Smith
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has described as “long overdue” his three-day state visit to Barbados, as he joined local dignitaries at a welcome reception in his honour, hosted by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason at Government House last night.
“I’ve always wanted to visit this land, this wonderful place that I’ve heard so much about. I’ve been talking to my kids and my one grandchild and the only person they seem to know who comes from this part of the world is Rihanna.
“I tell them there’s a lot more than that but they will get to learn,” the President said.
Dame Sandra hailed the visit as a testimony to friendly relations between the two countries and expressed the hope that Kenyatta’s visit will lead to increased cooperation between Nairobi and Bridgetown.
The Governor General said: “We share similar views on major issues, such as efforts to fight climate change, and a recognition of the importance of sustained development of the blue economy.
“We have begun to build a relationship which is based on mutual trust and respect.
“It is therefore timely to extend our collaboration to a new level, to explore further opportunities for development, and to structure a wider network of activity that can only serve to strengthen our bilateral relationship.
“This will certainly redound to the benefit of all of us.”
Barbados and Kenya established diplomatic relations in 2014, but Kenyatta told the gathering their ties go back over 100 years to the first Pan African conference, held in London in July 1900, “as Pan Africanists got together and worked together and engaged in the struggle for our liberation. So all we did in 2014 was renew that mutual relationship”.
He said Barbados is a strategic partner for Kenya in the Caribbean as Nairobi seeks to deepen its relations in the region, as according to him, engagement with the African diaspora has been lacking.
He said: “As developing countries we need to work in solidarity in pursuit of changes that mutually benefit us economically, and also internationally through enhanced bilateral engagement, especially with regard to South-South cooperation.”
Kenya’s fourth president, scion of legendary Pan Africanist and first Kenyan president, Jomo Kenyatta, thanked his “sister Mia” for the invitation to visit Barbados, and was also full of praise for his host, Dame Sandra.
President Kenyatta said: “Governor General, let me say that I admire your accomplishments with great pleasure.
“You became the first woman member of the Barbados Bar Association at a time when women were still fighting for equal opportunities.
“So it shows your strength and character. You are indeed the epitome of a woman in leadership.”
During his visit, part of a seven-day Caribbean tour, President Kenyatta will hold discussions with government officials and business executives on trade, marketing and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
He said: “I look forward to signing memorandums of understanding with the Prime Minister that will seek to strengthen not just our bilateral relations, but also further deepen our people to people exchanges.”
Before departing Barbados, President Kenyatta is expected to attend a cultural evening at Ilaro Court Thursday night and a meeting of CARICOM leaders on Friday.