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December 16, 2018

Switzerland is here to stay


Apart from Kenyan athletes and politicians, who would you say is one of the most renowned Kenyan personalities? It would, of course, be the late Prof Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!

And what, you might ask, is the link between this honourable Kenyan lady and the new Swiss Embassy building? The answer is simple: Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement inspired us, like so many around the world. So when it came to designing the new Embassy building of Switzerland, we decided consciously that the main trees on the plot should remain standing and that the new building would adapt to them rather than the opposite.

Today marks a culminating point of our relations with Kenya. For quite a number of years, our predecessors and colleagues have been working on a new building for the Embassy of Switzerland in Nairobi. And today — finally — we are officially inaugurating it!

Our new Embassy is not just a beautiful building. It is a symbol of the fact that Kenya and the region are important to Switzerland. And Kenya and the region are growing in importance. These new premises represent a substantial investment by the Swiss government in Kenya. The message of the new Embassy building is a simple one: “Switzerland is here to stay!”

Switzerland is here to continue its close cooperation with Kenya. And I would like to emphasise one specific area of cooperation: The fight against corruption and the recovery of assets of illicit origin.

Switzerland and Kenya have been working together in the area of fighting corruption for quite a number of years. All Kenyan readers have heard of the Anglo Leasing case. Switzerland has blocked assets related to this case and is waiting for the judicial proceedings to come to an end in Kenya. We firmly hope that the near future will bring the concrete steps towards the resolution of the Anglo Leasing case, which should finally allow Switzerland to return assets to Kenya.

In April 2017, in order to strengthen our existing cooperation in the fight against corruption, Switzerland and Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. This has paved the way for an improved cooperation in judicial matters.

Just to give you an example of what is possible when the partnership is functioning well: Switzerland recently signed a tripartite agreement with Nigeria and the World Bank for the restitution of $321 million (Sh32.5 billion) illegally acquired. The restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project supported and overseen by the World Bank.

The project will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population. The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption.

Our development cooperation has as one of its main objectives the reduction of poverty around the world. And there is a direct link between corruption and poverty.

Both as a leading financial centre and as a development partner, Switzerland has no interest in having money from corruption in her banks. It simply does not make sense that the money and efforts we invest in development, good governance, and fighting corruption should be stolen from the people it is intended to help.

Fighting global corruption can only be done through partnerships. Switzerland needs partners like Kenya in order to identify and freeze assets that have been illegally acquired and that found their way to Switzerland. It is also through solid partnership based on trust and respect that agreements can be found on the best way to return these assets, in a transparent way that benefits the people of a given country.

On this historic day of inaugurating the new Swiss Embassy building in Nairobi, my wish and message is that our relations with Kenya and the region continue to thrive!

Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya

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