Efforts by Caribbean governments to strengthen relations with their African counterparts have moved a step further with the acquisition of space in Kenya to house a joint CARICOM diplomatic mission.
Incoming CARICOM Chairman and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, recently accepted, on behalf of her regional colleagues, the space in an ultra-modern business complex in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
The office, located in the heart of the country’s diplomatic district and across the street from the United Nation’s principal home on the continent, is expected to be a hive of activity in the near future as Caribbean governments set out to deepen relations with their African counterparts.
Mottley said she found the occasion to be very emotional, given the blood, sweat and tears a number of persons had expended to get to this stage after centuries of exploitation.
“Our region and Africa have been separated, not just by the Atlantic Ocean, but by centuries of division and exploitation,” she told those attending the ceremony, including Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Monica Juma.
“And we, as a region, are adamant that we will not allow this separation to continue any further. When we claim our Atlantic destiny, we are conscious that we are coming home; we are conscious that we are igniting the bonds that may have been sparked by our predecessors in North Atlantic capitals, but borne out of common values and a common battle,” Mottley said. “We believe that it is incumbent on our generation to move to the next level and that we have no one else to blame now but ourselves if we do not remove the separation that was foisted upon us for centuries.”
She recalled that the promise to secure a place for a regional mission was made by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, when he visited Barbados earlier this year, when all parties agreed that the forging of closer ties was an “historic necessity”.
“This is but only one of many steps we will take in the next few months that will communicate to our people, as well as to those who are watching from outside, that this is not a fly-by-night relationship. It is one that will be anchored deeply and which is intended to unleash people-to-people communication and cooperation and the trade and investment opportunities such that our nations can prosper by relying on each other, and not simply on those from the North Atlantic,” the Prime Minister said.
Mottley also promised that when she takes over as Chairman of CARICOM in just over a month she would work closely with the Kenyan Government and business community to “make real, the first CARICOM/Africa summit”.
Speaking ahead of Mottley, Kenya’s Foreign Minister Juma congratulated CARICOM leaders for the significant “strategic move” of setting up the mission.
“You have a strong advocate in Uhuru Kenyatta and you can be assured of Kenya’s solidarity,” she said. “Our Afrocentric foreign policy in unambiguous in its focus to strengthen our relations within the continent and to reach out to people of African origin… We will continue to forge closer ties with people of African origin at the bilateral level as well as through the African Union.
After addressing the group, Prime Minister Mottley unveiled a plaque and cut a ribbon at the entrance to the office and then stood on the balcony of the high-rise complex to take in the view that will greet those regional representatives who will eventually be stationed there.