In reality though, the two countries’ trade ties date back hundreds of years.
Over 600 years ago, fleets led by the great Chinese navigator Zheng visited the Kenyan coast several times and started the friendly exchanges.
Flash forward to 2017 and Kenya and China’s trade ties couldn’t’t be any more stronger, China is now Kenya biggest lender and Beijing gave Nairobi a total Sh487 billion ($4,733.94 million) in the 12 months through end of September 2017.
The Asian country now controls 66 per cent of Kenya’s total bilateral debt.
When millions of Kenyans faced starvation in 2017 to early 2018 after the much anticipated long rains failed to materialize, China came to the rescue and donated a consignment of 155,000 bags of rice to be distributed in drought stricken areas across the country.
On its part, Kenya has readily lined up huge infrastructure projects across the country for Chinese investors to tender sometimes exclusively at huge interest rates.
And when caught on the wrong side of the law, Kenya was keen to ensure her number one ally does not suffer the indignity of Kenyan slow courts so Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA) partnered with China to establish a joint arbitration centre to hasten dispute settlements for Chinese firms operating in Kenya.
By all accounts, Kenya and China looks every bit like bosom buddies with shared vision and their ties grow stronger by the day.
So it’s strange when China subsequently bans an ethnic minority residing in China from ever setting foot on Kenya.
The Chinese government is repressing Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority in China on an unprecedented scale using the flimsiest of reasons that would seriously crack one up weren’t it a serious if not a human rights issue.
Uighurs who reside in the western region of Xinjiang, are banned from visiting Kenya because China considers Kenya a sensitive country.
China has a list of 26 ‘sensitive countries’ that Xinjiang residents can be punished for having ties with.
The countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
It is not yet clear why Beijing considers Kenya, one of her biggest exports markets, a sensitive country out of bounds for Uighurs but all the 26 listed countries are either majority-Muslim or have large Muslim populations.
However, Kenya by any extent is not dominated by Muslims to warrant the Uighurs’ ban.
Also read: China forces Christians to sign contracts denouncing Jesus, bibles burnt in purge
Muslims in Kenya just make about 10 percent of the overall population. More so although Islam has spread throughout Kenya, the largest concentration of Muslims is found in the coastal region and North-Eastern region.
And that’s not even all, knowing people who had traveled out the region and you have not informed authorities will get you arrested if you an Uighur.
As a result around 1 million are reportedly imprisoned in detention centers or re-education camps in the western region of Xinjiang, where many of them live.
Showing distinct markers of Islam, like having a beard or wearing a veil, exhibiting Muslim behaviours and practices, such as not serving alcohol in restaurants will also see you get arrested and slapped with lengthy prison sentences.
Owning computer files to do with Islam or in the Uighur language, communicating with people outside the country via WhatsApp to setting clocks to two hours after Beijing time are just some of the reasons Chinese authorities use to crack the whip on ‘poor’ Uighurs.
Maybe just maybe it is high time African heads of States start examining their relations with China after all don’t majority of them pride themselves as ‘champions of human rights and beacons of democracy’?