Kenya to lobby AU for WTO top job

Saturday January 19 2013

By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent

Kenya will go on a diplomatic offensive next week at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to lobby other African countries to support Amina Mohamed, its candidate for the World Trade Organisation’s top job.

Ms Mohamed is the current deputy executive director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep).

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri, who officially launched Ms Mohamed’s candidature in Nairobi on Tuesday, said he would use his position as the current chair of Igad Council of Ministers to create a formidable group to lobby other AU members.

Other senior government officials who have also been sent out on a diplomatic offensive across the world are Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Minister Moses Wetangula.

Kenya is hoping Ms Mohamed’s credentials of having chaired the WTO General Council in 2005, which saw the election of the current holder, Pascal Lamy, and her legal background will work in her favour.

Initially, the African Union Summit had endorsed the candidature of Ghanaian Alan Kyerematen, but there has been a change of opinion when they compare the background of Ms Mohamed against that of Mr Kyerematen: The thinking is that Africa should front a person who can perform and solve the issues facing the continent without regards to international trade and not just supporting a candidate simply on the basis of African origin.

Mr Kyerematen is a former minister and presidential candidate, who combines politics, diplomacy and experience in international trade. The two are the only candidates from Africa in a contest that has attracted nine candidates.

The others are: Mari Elka Pangestu of Indonesia, Tim Groser (New Zealand),  Ahmad Thougan Hindawi (Jordan), Herminio Blanco (Mexico), Taeho Bark (South Korea) and Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo from Brazil.

The current and outgoing director-general, Mr Lamy, is from France.

Kenya believes Ms Mohamed has a strong background, having chaired the WTO General Council where she made many admirers; she also served as the UN Assistant Secretary-General since 2011 and has been Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, where she rose to become the lead negotiator for the 77 Group and African Group.

She is using her Unep position to implement Rio+20,  a programme aimed at reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection.