Over the last two weeks, Nairobi has played home to high-ranking US intelligence and defense officials, such as William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and General Michael Langley, the commander of Africa Command (Africom). The administration remained silent regarding the results of their travels, but they did result in promises of intelligence and security collaboration. While the head of CIA traveled through DR Congo and Somalia, Gen. Langley also made trips to Somalia and Djibouti. Kenya was the first nation in the Horn of Africa to openly support airstrikes against the Houthi, who are supported by Iran and whose attacks on ships in the Red Sea are currently regarded as terrorist activities by the West.
The White House released a statement that stated, “These strikes were intended to prevent escalation while interfering with the Houthis’ ability to carry out their attacks on innocent mariners worldwide and global trade.” It calls for a halt to these attacks and denounces them. It further stresses that international law and UN Security Council Resolution 2216 are being broken by those who are the Houthis for these assaults. The international response to the ongoing Houthi assaults on January 22 showed a common determination to protect the freedoms and rights of navigation and to protect sailors’ lives from unlawful and unjustified attacks. Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Croatia, Croatian Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Poland, Korea, Romania, UK, and US all approved the declaration.
East African Peers Exercise Caution
At first, the Houthis were not seen as a danger outside of their own nation. However, they have attacked commercial and navy ships traveling through the Red Sea at least thirty times since December, purportedly in retaliation for Israel’s assault in Gaza against the terrorist organization Hamas. According to Houthis, their actions are retaliation for Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. The Horn of Africa governments have refrained from supporting the counter-strikes, despite the fact that the Red Sea shipping route is vital to Eastern African nations since it reduces importation times from Europe. Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia all of whom may be impacted by any maritime unrest there have opted for a non-interventionist approach. Because piracy is still a concern, ships should exercise caution when traversing the waters around Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau. Due to attacks in the Red Sea, ships must divert to the southern point of Africa via the Gulf of Guinea, adding around 6,000 kilometers to their journey. This highlights the significance of Guinea Bissau in safeguarding that route.
Delicate Regional Dynamics
Kenya is seen by the US as a significant and powerful friend as it has “the most dynamic economy in East Africa” and is “a growing regional business and financial hub.” Washington and Nairobi formally upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership in 2018, with a focus on five areas of cooperation: public health cooperation; multilateral and regional issues; democracy, governance, and civilian security; defense cooperation; and economic prosperity, trade, and investment. Kenya seeks to enhance its business climate and promote growth through the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (Stip), which it is now discussing with the other country. Meanwhile, Nairobi is using Washington’s authority over the administration of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to relieve pressure on debt payments and save the economy. Observers have not overlooked the fact that the IMF granted a $684.7 million transfer to Kenya to support its capacity to repay its first Eurobond, which matures in June, during the same period that it was entertaining senior US officials.
In conclusion, With a warning that the strikes would continue until the Houthis stopped their attacks, the US, UK, and more than 20 of its partners began attacking the Houthis. In an attempt to put a halt to the continued attacks in the Red Sea, the UK claimed in a statement that 24 nations including the US, Germany, and Australia carried out strikes against eight targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen on Monday.The Houthis pose less of a direct danger to Kenya than the revival of piracy off the coast of Somalia, which carries the risk of raising shipping insurance costs and, consequently, the price of importing commodities through the Port of Mombasa. Over the past ten years, piracy has all but disappeared thanks to a worldwide naval alliance headed by the US and the EU. However, since November 2023, pirates have assaulted four ships off the coast of Somalia. While the other two have not yet been let free, two of them have been set free.