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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the inauguration of refurbished Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Library at the University of Nairobi

June 14, 2021

Honorable Ababu Namwamba, Chief Administrative Secretary, Foreign Affairs;
Principal Secretary Education;
Chancellor Dr. Vijoo Rattansi;
Vice Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama;
Professor Julia Ojiambo


The two High Commissioners and even Ambassador Rahul Chhabra because he is the Principal Secretary dealing with Africa who encouraged us to be here, so you intuitively got it right.

Students, Distinguished guests, Academist, Friends

It is really a great pleasure to join you today on the occasion of inauguration of the renovated Mahatma Gandhi Library at the University of Nairobi. As someone who has spent a long time at the universities let me tell you it is always good to come back to a university.

Five years ago, I had the honor of accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his State visit to Kenya in July, 2016. On that occasion, he, if you remember, delivered a special lecture to a large gathering of students at this University and infact mentioned the motto of the University "Unitat et Labore”- work hard and in unity. He declared that the fruits of your labour will be yours as you march towards your destiny, and you will find India, a trusted and reliable friend. Today, as the renovation of the library stands completed and generation of Kenyan students will find it useful in their quest for knowledge, I can say that we have delivered on that promise. And I must thank all those, all those in Kenya, all those in India, in the High Commissions, in the Ministries, in the university most of all, who have made that possible.

But this is not just a moment for self-congratulation; it is also perhaps a time to reflect on the larger significance of the relationship between India and Kenya. As you all know, India’s association with this University goes back decades and the very memory of Mahatma Gandhi was meant to underline our strong solidarity. It also reminds us of the Kenyans with Indian heritage who have contributed so much to this University’s growth and success. In the decades that have passed, this sentiment has not diminished. On the contrary, it has taken the form of practical South South cooperation, of which this project is one small example.

Now, there are numerous other activities that involve human resources and nurturing talent that stand as testimony to our deep bonds. In education and capacity building, as you have heard from other speakers, since the 1960s, Indian universities have hosted many young Kenyans who have risen to important positions in various fields. Every year, the Government of India offers more than 400 scholarships to Kenyans. Even during the pandemic, we continued to maintain this relationship virtually through activities like the e-ITEC course and one recent example of that was what we did with the Kenyan Postal Department officers. Another example is the collaboration between the Indian Oil Corporation and the University of Nairobi in building key competencies in refinery process and technologies through online courses.

These illustrations should evoke a discussion of how we wish to refashion our relationship for contemporary times. I believe that the core continues to be the solidarity forged by our shared struggle last century. But they must also take into account the new challenges that have emerged since.

First and foremost in that context is our thinking on globalization. There is no doubt that the world today is much more interlinked and much more inter-dependent. But it should not be that globalization, apply only to resources and markets while production centres remain concentrated in the hands of a few. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought home the dangers of relying on limited geographies. When supply chains were disrupted and demand outstriped supply, the more vulnerable will inevitably get short changed. Africa cannot afford to see that continue. And this goes against the very spirit of South South cooperation. The direct lesson from the pandemic is the need today, the pressing need I would say, for decentralized globalization.

Our sense of security has also undergone a radical change. We now perceive health and food security as far more intrinsic to National Security. This makes a compelling case for enhancing capacities in Africa. And that would only happen when partnerships genuinely aimed at Africa’s welfare deliver more extensively on development projects. Indeed, development itself will only unfold when it is based on deeper capacities. We have seen the powerful impact of collaborations that can make this happen. Earlier this afternoon, when I had the honor to call on President Uhuru Kenyatta, he shared with me how the Rivatex project in Eldoret has profoundly transformed the entire community.

So today, I want to tell you all that the rise of modern Africa is not just a noble sentiment; it is a long-awaited expectation, I would even say it is a profound calculation. It is only when this continent of more than a billion people takes its rightful place that the full diversity of our planet will find proper expression. It is then that we can justifiably declare that the world is truly multipolar. Decisions made by the international community will be really global only when Africa’s voice is adequately heard. And that must happen most of all by reform in leading bodies like the UN Security Council where today India and Kenya have seats as Non Permanent members for two years.

Both, as a solidarity and as a strategy, India stands with Africa. Within our capacities, we have partnered with as much as a large heart as an open mind. Your priorities guide our initiatives. We have faced the challenges of the world together, we are doing it even today and we see that particularly when it comes to public health. Indeed, another of Prime Minister Modi’s commitments during the memorable visit- to provide anti-TB and anti-HIV drugs- was implemented as effectively as this project has been today. And there is so much more that can be done and must be done, especially in a world that is recovering from the Covid pandemic.

My visit, I hope, contributed to a new agenda of cooperation that I believe, is now in the making. This is shaped by the vision that Prime Minister Modi and President Kenyatta have of the relationship. I had the opportunity to discuss it in deep detail with my Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo and with several other Cabinet Secretaries who deal with key aspects of our shared agenda.

In 1956, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi which I had the honour to place flowers at, was unveiled at this very University. Six decades later, the modernization of this library is a reminder of what brings us together. Let me, therefore, conclude by underlining that it is only by greater international cooperation and stronger capacities that result from it, that we can, in the Mahatma’s words, bring about the change we seek. India and Kenya have the opportunity to demonstrate that their partnership can make a difference. As they say here, Let us work hard and in unity.

Thankyou.

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