Tendai Mtana looks forward to the day India and Kenya have a reciprocal relationship. Mtana, Executive Education and Environment Secretary for Mombasa County, sees opportunities for bi-lateral relations through education, trade and waste management. The coast of east Africa and western India have historically been linked by merchants, but Mtana regrets that today Kenya still has a Eurocentric mindset and expects bailouts from the IMF, ADB and WB to bridge its budget deficit. He wonders whether development banks in India have invested in Kenya.
The 2015 India-Africa Summit in Delhi was not a priority for the politically driven local media; evidently it did not warrant much coverage and disappointingly no briefing notes were circulated to County Governors and their teams. Mtana fears that nothing has been done to update Kenya’s middle class perceptions that India is an over populated, dirty country. As recently as the late 1990s and early 2000s, Indian education qualifications were meaningless to employers. He says, “Kenya’s public service is still Eurocentric and does not appreciate what India has to offer. Few policy frameworks have a profound Indian element. The level of commitment is superficial. It’s a waste of opportunity, Indo-African relations need recalibrating.”
Mtana reveals that the Kenya Transnational Authority has been inadequate in terms of communication channels and inter-government relations. He is concerned that the colonial central system and all its inefficiencies will become entrenched in the civil service of the newly devolved County Governments. Mtana says, “Pioneer governments owe it to the next generation to rethink reliable civil service and public service delivery.”
His Excellency Governor Hassan Ali Joho of Mombasa County is the Chair of three Global Communication Working Groups, discussing counter narratives, refugees, foreign funding and ideology, so Mtana is well placed to be the Mombasa government’s spokesperson on countering extremism. Governor Joho addressed the UNGA in New York about the break-up in social cohesion and the resulting intolerance. Mtana is now leading the team designing the framework for counter extremism policy. He says it is disappointing that this policy analysis group is not dovetailed into national security and intelligence briefings, a coordinating effort is needed; towards this he is part of the UN “Strong Cities Network”. This initiative had its inaugural meeting in New York after UNGA and will have follow up meetings in Paris and London this July.
Mombasa, a city of 1.4 million inhabitants is a representation of pluralism and diversity, the Muslim call to prayer (the adhaan) is heard against a backdrop of church bells, Hindu temples and Sikh gurudwaras. Wrongly, Mombasa is often regarded as the epicentre of Kenya’s extremism. Mtana echoes Governor Joho in saying extremism is a nationwide and international problem. Mtana suggests there is no longer any stereotype of a radical extremist, which makes Al-Shabab sympathisers difficult to identify. He regrets the traditional channels for countering extremism are usually western and the western perspective is that Islam is the face of violent extremism.