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Risks to Kenya’s Non-NATO Ally Status With Uncle Sam

Kenya’s non-NATO status will divide African countries between those in the American orbit and those outside it.

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A major non-NATO ally (MNNA) is a country not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) yet has deep strategic and security partnerships with the United States. President William Ruto returned to Kenya after what many perceived as a successful international rendezvous. 

Aside from the fun fare and pageantry of the state dinner at the White House or his meeting with American former basketball player Shaquille O’Neil in Atlanta, the precepts of hard power foreign policy were present and clear for all to see in President Joe Biden declaring Kenya a non-NATO ally. 

The Ruto Administration was clearly realigning Kenya firmly into the American orbit on foreign policy matters. However, while this realignment comes with significant rewards from Washington, it also bears significant risks.

For starters, there is no free lunch in the self-help international system. More often than not, nations interact with each other based on hard power politics. The centrality of national interest in the economic, security, environmental, political and diplomatic realms. 

Uncle Sam’s interaction with Kenya is no different. In exchange for becoming a non-NATO ally of the United States, Washington will expect Kenya to be an active member of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group while supporting American diplomatic, economic, political and security initiatives worldwide. 

READ MORE: US Ambassador Urges Tanzania to Enhance Local Value Addition for its Critical Minerals

The Ukraine Defence Contact Group is an association of 50 states that are NATO and non-NATO allies, keen on finding every way to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. What will the costs of Kenya’s non-NATO status be on its relationship with Russia?

Sino-Kenyan relations

Regarding Sino-Kenyan relations, the non-NATO status for Kenya also significantly changes the dynamics between Beijing and Nairobi. China is concerned that the US is constantly undermining its rise worldwide through containment, encirclement, entanglement, balancing and wedging strategies. 

Containment and encirclement in terms of America surrounding China with countries united in checking Chinese expansion. Entanglement and balancing in terms of the US keeping China preoccupied in areas of the world where it might not want to be, such as in constant feuds and war games with Taiwan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, and Japan.

Balancing in regard to the US propping regional rivals like India to limit Beijing’s influence in the South Asian subcontinent. In this regard, Kenya’s move to come closer into the US orbit signals to China a realignment of Kenya’s position to balance, contain, and encircle China’s influence in the East and Central African subregion as a core ally of the United States.

 A clear example is Kenya allowing the US to expand the military base in Manda Bay Lamu to secure global maritime chokepoints and supply chains along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast, the Red Sea, and upstream to the Suez Canal. China has not been granted such facilities in Kenya. 

READ MORE: US, EU-Backed Lobito Corridor: A Challenger to Tanzania’s SGR Rail, Port Ambitions?

In fact, the US continues to expand its global military base portfolio having over 750 military bases in 80 countries compared to China, which has only one base in Djibouti.

American unilateralism

Lastly, in terms of the African Agenda 2063, Kenya’s non-NATO ally status implicitly endorses American unilateralism in Africa and around the world. American unilateralism on the continent creates and/or exacerbates wars in contravention of Agenda 2063’s vision of “Silencing the Guns” and improving continental security. 

For instance, US unilateralism resulted in regime change in Libya and state collapse after that. US unilateralism confronting rebel leader Farrah Aideed led to the collapse of the UN Mission in Somalia in the 1990s and the eventual collapse of the central government in Mogadishu once the Americans departed. 

While Kenya might not explicitly endorse US interventionism, actions speak louder than words. Being on the US team of allies (NATO and non-NATO) clearly sets Kenya apart from the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, and America’s rivals and adversaries. 

It also raises questions over Kenya’s declared status as a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member when it is clearly no longer non-aligned but aligned to Washington and NATO. In addition, non-NATO status for Kenya can divide African countries between those in the American orbit and those outside it. 

READ MORE: NDI President Ambassador Derek Mitchell: Solutions Lie in More Democracy, Not Less

This is not good for African unity or the vision of the African Agenda 2063. So, as much as the Ruto Administration relishes the grandeur of the US state visit, Uncle Sam is a ruthless suitor who will make hefty demands for the bountiful bounty of goodies he provides.

Prof David Monda teaches political science, international relations and foreign policy at the City University of New York. He’s available at or on X as @dmonda1. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please get in touch with our editors at

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3 Responses

  1. Whoever advised him to make that deal ruined a good country, I see the collapse of Kenya in the near future.
    Hope by that time I’ll be out of this country.

  2. Ruto has sold his soul and is selling Kenya to the US empire. He is changing Kenya into another Somalia

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