AU vote moves Kenya closer to UN Council seat


President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya has moved a step closer to gaining the clout it has been seeking to help influence geopolitics after the African Union (AU) endorsed its candidature for the non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

The endorsement, which came after two rounds of voting at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa Wednesday, guaranteed Nairobi the position of Africa’s sole candidate for the Council seat.

Kenya’s heated maritime border dispute with Somalia and Nairobi’s application to have Al-Shabaab declared a proscribed group will be among the issues the country will be seeking to push through at the Council.

In seeking to be a non-permanent member of the Council for two years, Kenya wants to “sit on the same table with decision makers on the issues of peace and security,” according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Monica Juma. It is the UN’s most powerful organ charged with maintaining global peace and security.

It makes decisions like sanctioning rogue member States or leaders, admitting new members to the UN and generally passing resolutions that provide mandates (and financing approvals) to military missions such as that of the African Union Mission in Somalia, of which the Kenya Defence Forces is a part.

It can also take decisive action on things like climate change, terrorism or deferring a case filed at the International Criminal Court.

Kenya, which is involved in a border dispute with Somalia at the International Court of Justice, could also hoping to use its influence to get support from the US and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council who do not recognise the ICJ.

Nairobi will be hoping to sway the Council to vouch for a political solution in the maritime dispute, regardless of who wins at the ICJ when the court makes its judgement next month.

The AU win, which came after a protracted repeat poll, may have rescued the careers of key diplomats charged with the assignment.

Some of those on the ‘road show’ admitted they had been drained by the campaign. Kenya beat Djibouti by 37 votes to 13 after the second round of voting by 51 AU member states. Like Kenya, tiny Djibouti shares borders with both Somalia and Ethiopia.

Unlike Kenya, where English and Kiswahili are the dominant language, French and Arabic are the main languages spoken in Djibouti.

“I am grateful to the African Union’s PRC (permanent representatives’ committee) for the confidence they have shown by endorsing our candidature for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) non-permanent seat,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement released by State House.

Elections for the non-permanent seat for the period 2021-2022 are to be held at the UN in New York next June.

For weeks, Diplomatic and Political Secretary Tom Amolo, Kenya’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU; Catherine Mwangi, Kenya’s permanent representative in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Igad; and Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Lazarus Amayo, had the heaviest task of convincing African countries to vote for Kenya.

Marketing Kenya as a better voice for the continent and the champion of peace and security, the three envoys were attempting to break a recent jinx where Kenya failed to win at the African Union.

Nairobi had recently lost a bid to front its Amina Mohamed to be AU Chairperson. The seat went to Chadian Moussa Faki. More recently, it lost out in its bid to host the headquarters of the nascent Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCTA) secretariat to Ghana.