I have followed developments in Kenya with special interest as a minister for international development cooperation over the past six years. My conviction as a politician is that the coming six months will be a defining time for the future.
Since independence 49 years ago, Kenya has been a good friend and partner to Sweden. An expanding Swedish presence in Nairobi is testament to the importance that Sweden attaches to her relations with Kenya and East Africa.
Development cooperation has been a cornerstone of our relations and a stepping stone for new areas of cooperation. Trade is increasing as new business and investment opportunities between our countries are explored. Research collaboration, business relations and civic exchanges are forging strong bonds.
Sweden supports by various means Kenya's objective to become a middle-income country by 2030 through economic, social and political development. This week, our evolving partnership will materialise in a Memorandum of Understanding on innovation, entrepreneurship, ICT and urban development. It represents our commitment to develop commercial relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
If Kenya were part of the EU, it would be one of our least-indebted members. Your country's surplus trade in services and its potential in light manufacturing illustrate how technical innovations and entrepreneurship can benefit development and inclusion. The European Union, of which Sweden is a member, appreciates Kenya as a pivotal partner for peace and stability in the region.
We support your efforts to improve conditions for political stability in the Horn of Africa and manage the challenge of a large refugee population. Kenya is an important multilateral partner, including as host to the headquarters of Unep and UN-Habitat. Although there is no single blueprint for development, there are factors that we know to be universally crucial for long-term development and stability.
These include viable governance institutions, the rule of law, free markets and respect for human rights including gender equality, to name just a few. I will address these issues in the UN Secretary General's High-level Panel for new global development goals post-2015, of which I am a member. Sustainable development requires not least the enjoyment of human rights and security. I am profoundly concerned about the recent violence in the Tana Delta and urge leaders to ensure that peace is restored.
As I embark on my fourth journey to Kenya in recent years, I see the opportunities and possibilities that are within reach. Based on my experience, the challenges facing Kenya, and existing commitments and obligations, this is what I would encourage Kenyans and your leaders to do:
• Use the positive experience of the 2010 referendum on the constitution and pursue electoral reform to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections in March 2013;
• Unite as Kenyans and refrain from negative ethnicity and ethnic politics;
• Implement the constitution with full respect for its letter and spirit;
• Strive for politics to be policy-driven, offering voters the opportunity to choose ideas and aspirations for the Kenya of tomorrow;
• Stress the importance of integrity, transparency and accountability, in line with the governance principles and values of the constitution;
• End impunity through continued reform of the justice sector, and full cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Take action to protect human rights and ensure justice;
• Prevent further violence, address local conflicts, and reconcile.
I welcome the beginning of a new chapter of enhanced partnership with Kenya by inaugurating the Embassy of Sweden's new chancery in Nairobi this week. It is a demonstration of our commitment to this country and region.
Gunilla Carlsson is Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation.