In its annual report on the development of China’s military apparatus, published on 3 November, the Pentagon expressed its concerns about China ‘s desire to strengthen its position in the highly sensitive area of East Africa. The document mentions at least 12 countries in which the People’s Republic of China would be interested in locating military bases, including Kenya. Kenya is a precious ally in the area, for the United States, for the fight against jihadism, and now also for the conflict in Ethiopia.
China’s presence in the area has grown in recent years, opening its first military base in Djibouti in 2017. The move ties in with economic expansion in the area with the New Silk Road, announced by the Chinese president in 2013, which aims to strengthen the dragon’s economic ties with East African states. China’s economic presence in the country is strong, with a total of $9.8bn of Kenyan government debt held and a number of major investments, such as the railway between Mombasa and Nairobi and a series of highways along the country.
China has denied, however, that it wants to establish military bases in Kenya to increase its influence in the area. The Chinese embassy in Nairobi branded the US document as propaganda and commented that “the Chinese foreign ministry urged them (the US) to stop issuing irresponsible reports year after year, and abandon the outdated cold war mentality and zero-sum game mentality”.