Eyes on AU over Kenya, Djibouti UN Security Council seat dispute

Sunday February 09 2020

A recent UN Security Council meeting in New York. Kenya wants to seek clarification from the African Union on why Djibouti continues to campaign for the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council despite losing an endorsement vote to Nairobi last year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The African Union Heads of State and Government meeting in Addis Ababa this weekend may have to address the continual disagreements on the validity of Kenya’s endorsement to run for the United Nations Security Council seat.

Ahead of the 33rd Ordinary Summit, Kenya had formally sought clarification from the African Union on why Djibouti is still campaigning for the non-permanent member Security Council seat, yet it lost the nomination to Nairobi last year in a vote.

But Djibouti, in response, officially challenged the validity of the vote, arguing in fact the rules of rotation would have automatically granted it the endorsement since it had served at the UNSC fewer times than Kenya.

“Djibouti is formally challenging the process carried out within the African Union which led to Kenya's competing nomination,” Djibouti said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“This process took place in violation of the rules and traditions of the organisation. Djibouti points out that the texts provide that, in the event of multiple candidacies or lack of consensus, states are chosen according to two principles: That of last rotation and that of frequency.”

Djibouti’s contentious argument is that it would have prevailed in both cases. Kenya served on the UN Security Council in 1977-78 and 1997-98. Djibouti has served once in 1993-94.


“The Republic of Djibouti regards its candidacy as legitimate and that of a united Africa. Consequently, it intends to defend and promote it until the vote before the United Nations General Assembly in June 2020,” reads the statement.

Djibouti appears to have changed tact. Previously, Djibouti’s officials argued that the African Union Executive Council had not approved the vote, something Nairobi insisted was false since ambassadors accredited to the AU, and known as Permanent Representatives had voted and the result duly communicated to the relevant organs.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo, who is leading the Kenyan delegation, sought the clarification from the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat

On Wednesday, Ms Omamo met with Mr Mahamat at the AU headquarters where she called for the “the need to protect the integrity of the Union and fidelity to its procedures,” according to a dispatch from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This was a reference to its decisive vote last September which endorsed Kenya.

Traditionally, the African Union routinely fronts common candidates for global positions especially at the UN. And since 2007, the AU had stuck to a resolution where candidates are endorsed by the body, through a vote or consensus, before competing. This often leads to unopposed candidates.


Legally speaking, Djibouti could still enter a parallel run for the seat, since the AU endorsement is not sufficient for a candidate to win the seat. But officials in Kenya argue allowing Djibouti to continue with the race could in future kill this tradition and “effectively threaten the fidelity and undermines the integrity of the continent’s agreed processes and outcomes,” according to the dispatch from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nairobi says Djibouti should “abandon this injurious quest” in order to safeguard the unity of the AU.

If Djibouti sticks to the race, it means the eastern Africa region will be having two contenders for the first time since 2000 when Mauritius reneged on the endorsement for Sudan. But that was before the 2007 resolution.

But experts say this contest, not usually expected of African countries, now reflects the potential influence non-permanent members can wield.

The UNSC has five permanent members known as P-5, with powers to veto substantive decisions. They are France, China, UK, US and Russia. It also has 10 non-permanent members, known as E-10.

While the P-5 holds the clout over matters around the world, experts say the fractured relations between them and the continual disagreement on issues means the E-10 have become equally influential, hence the reason Nairobi is keen to join.