Boris Johnson in fresh foreign affairs controversy after congratulating Kenya’s President on disputed re-election

Rob Merrick
Boris Johnson was among the first foreign ministers to congratulate Kenya’s re-elected President: AFP/Getty

Boris Johnson is embroiled in another foreign affairs row after claims he rushed to congratulate Kenya’s President on his controversial re-election.

Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory is hotly disputed, after allegations of “irregularities” and “illegalities” in the conduct of the poll, last month.

Kenya’s Supreme Court first ordered a repeat vote, but has now dismissed legal challenges to Mr Kenyatta’s win.

The Kenyan government then tweeted, “Britain Congratulates @PresidentKE @UKenyatta on his re-election through UK Foreign Secretary @BorisJohnson. CS @AMB_A_Mohammed confirms.”

The Foreign Office confirmed that Mr Johnson had spoken to Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s foreign minister, and defended his blessing for the election outcome.

A spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary spoke to the Kenyan Foreign minister to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.

“During the conversation, she updated him that Supreme Court proceedings in Kenya had now concluded and the Foreign Secretary rightly congratulated her.”

The only other nations to congratulate Mr Kenyatta immediately after the court ruling were South Sudan, Bangladesh and Uganda, according to the government’s official Twitter feed.

However, Mr Kenyatta’s spokesman has since stated that more than 40 countries had congratulated the president.

The row comes after Mr Johnson was forced to apologise for wrongly claiming charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was “teaching people journalism” when she was jailed in Iran.

The Foreign Secretary was also strongly criticised when he said that the war-torn Libyan city of Sirte only needed to “clear the dead bodies away” in order to prosper.

Other western countries are believed to still have concerns about the manner of Mr Kenyatta’s victory, which has prompted them to withhold their backing.

After the first vote, his Jubilee party amended election laws to make nullification of the result harder and there are claims that pro-democracy groups were threatened with a crackdown.

The Opposition leader Raila Odinga, has rejected the result as “illegitimate” and started a “national resistance movement” to force another election within six months.

Meanwhile, at least nine people were killed in demonstrations and Kenyan police officers were filmed throwing rocks at a convoy of cars accompanying Mr Odinga.

But Mr Johnson’s response came to light on Monday, just hours after Kenya’s Supreme Court dismissed the legal challenges to the October 26 election.

Asked about the conversation with Mr Johnson, Ms Mohamed told the Financial Times: “We are grateful to our partners and friends who encouraged us along the way and congratulated us immediately the race was over.”

It appeared that Ms Mohammed had sought congratulations from Mr Johnson, after diplomats from several countries said Nairobi had done the same with their capitals.