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China denies hacking Kenyan government amid debt strain


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China denies hacking Kenyan government amid debt strain


Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjiang. FILE PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

China’s embassy in Nairobi has denied a Reuters report that hackers from the southeast Asian Nation attacked key government ministries, the State House and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to assess whether the country would service billions of dollars owed to Beijing. 

Reuters reported on Wednesday that years-long cyberattacks started in 2019 when the Chinese started closing credit taps to Kenya as debt strains started showing. 

“The said false report is groundless, far-fetched and sheer nonsense. Hacking is a common threat to all countries and China is also a victim of cyber attack,” a Chinese embassy spokesperson said on Wednesday. 

“China consistently and firmly opposes and combats cyber attacks and cyber theft in all forms. Tracing the source of cyber attacks is a complex technical issue.”

The report said a vast trove of documents was stolen by the attackers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Treasury allegedly to help the Southeast Asian country assess the debt situation. 

Kenya owed China $6.31 billion last March, the smallest volume since $6.01 billion in March 2019 after peaking in June 2021 at $7.06 billion.

“A lot of documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were stolen and from the finance department as well. The attacks appeared focused on the debt situation,” Reuters quoted a Kenyan cybersecurity expert. 

Reuters said the NIS breach was possibly aimed at gleaning information on how Kenya planned to manage its debt payments.

But Beijing has refuted the report, saying the ties between Kenya and China are founded on mutual respect.

“China and Kenya have been developing robustly, with deepening political mutual trust and fruitful practical cooperation, bringing tangible benefits to both sides,” the spokesperson said. 

Guided by the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and with a commitment to the greater good and shared interests, China endeavours to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with Kenya and work together with Kenya to strive for new progress in the China-Kenya comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

Kenya has cut borrowing from the Southeast Asian country.

The drop is in line with Beijing’s cautious approach to lending to Kenya and Africa in the post-Covid era amid warnings that key economies in the continent were facing a multitude of debt tripwires.

The terms of Beijing’s loan deals with developing countries are usually secretive and require borrowing nations like Kenya to prioritise repayment to Chinese state-owned banks ahead of other creditors, according to a dataset compiled by AidData — a US research lab at the College of William & Mary.

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