China has made inroads in Kenya through four different specific channels – economic investments, information operations, relationships with ruling parties and United front operations. Kenya’s current administration is soft on China, which has weakened its democratic institutions.
Due to declining interests of western governments, Kenya is slowly becoming highly dependent on the CCP for investments. These developments are under reported in Kenya’s media as it has been taken over by Chinese propaganda.
The CCP holds regular party to party teaching initiatives with the current ruling Jubilee Party. This allows the CCP to popularize its governance model in Kenya and hence gain its support in international communities. After learning Chinese policies, there is a generation in Kenya which not only understands but even reverses it. They will never oppose Chinese policy as they get enough carrot for towing Chinese line.
China, through the belt and road initiative has made large investments in Kenya. The party along with its state enterprises have given out large loans with disadvantageous and opaque conditions that is actually increasing Kenya’s financial burden rather than helping it economically. The details of these loans are not shared with the common public, which hints at conspiracy.
Through widespread corruption, many Chinese state owned corporations have won contracts in Kenya, for a fraction of price and without competitive bids. The public in general is still ignorant about these contracts. By the time, they know about it, it will be too late.
Many loans provided have backdoors for Chinese interests. For example, leaked documents about a railway contract have exposed that if Kenya is unable to pay 3.6 billion dollar loan, its Mombasa port will be handed over to China as collateral. Hence, China has used one sided contracts to trap Kenya. There will be a time when Kenya will not be able to pay back the money it has taken from China and lose strategic positions ultimately.
Many private Chinese companies have been accused of bribery, racism and even labour law violations in Kenya. These companies indulge in widespread positive public relations to balance out this negative coverage. Many of these companies have social responsibility programs like scholarship funds to whitewash their wrongdoings in the region.
China has also made inroads through presence of state media here. These outlets protect China’s interests by taking over the discourse and promoting pro-China views. The biggest culprit here are firms that provide channel packages. Chinese companies dominate here. Hence, they keep Chinese channels for a minimum cost and charge a premium for western channels. Hence, most Kenyans choose to listen to Chinese state controlled media due to the differential pricing.
Just like Nepal, China offers Kenyan journalists free trips to China. It is an unspoken contract that China expects them to tow the party line and help spread China’s narratives in the news. Additionally, Confucius Institutes are prevalent here too.
Activists and citizens have amply protested over these issues through the use of social and traditional media. Many workers were abused and mistreated by Chinese firms have found a voice in media. After Covid 19, Kenyans have come to realize that they cannot rely solely on China for economic support and recovery. There’s no question Chinese influence has led to degradation of democratic institutions in Kenya. Kenyan decision-makers, lacking attractive investment alternatives and influenced by political and personal incentives, sign up to lopsided terms included in opaque deals that they are often contractually bound not to reveal.
But China has embedded its tentacles in Kenya to such a scale that even if there is an outburst against the local government nothing will happen to China’s moles in the country. Even if there is an uprising against China or the local government, China has ensured that it has optimum control over police and law enforcing agencies in Kenya to crush that.