Kenya, Djibouti contest for UN seat heads to second round

Wednesday June 17 2020

United Nations General Assembly in session. The Kenya-Djibouti contest for the UN Security Council seat enters second day of voting on June 18, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The contest between Kenya and Djibouti will head to the second round of voting on Thursday after the first phase saw Nairobi’s victory insufficient to win the UN Security Council seat.

In the first round, Nairobi scored 113 votes against Djibouti’s 78. And although Kenya was firmly in the driving seat, the rules of the elections demand at least two thirds of the votes of eligible UN member states to be declared winner.

On Wednesday, the election that started at 4pm Kenyan time (EAT) saw 192 of the 193 member states voting. Only Venezuela was barred from casting its ballot as it is still in arrears for its membership in the UN.

It means Nairobi’s diplomats will have to work a lot harder on Thursday to lobby countries across the world for one more vote each to see off a Djibouti that rejected African Union’s decision to endorse Kenya, and went ahead to conduct parallel campaigns for the only seat allocated for Africa.

The UN Security Council is the most powerful organ of the UN, charged with maintaining global peace and security. Its decisions, by law, must be obeyed by all UN member states, giving it prestige and power.

Nairobi, if it wins, would be among the 10 non-permanent members, who often work alongside the permanent five (Russia, China, UK, US, France) to pass resolutions touching on global peace and security.


While the permanent five often have powers to veto, their continual bickering on key issues has often required the non-permanent 10 to tilt decisions in their favour, making all members of the Council influential. All members of the Council also get a chance to preside over sittings, providing another opportunity to influence agenda.

Nairobi was banking on the African Union endorsement and its own networks abroad to ride the Djibouti challenge.

The elections for non-permanent seats of the UN’s most powerful organ are often routine annual events. Wednesday’s ballot was historic as representatives voted under restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and without the plenary sessions.

India, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and Norway were the other countries who fronted their candidature. India had by last evening won its contest for the Asia/Pacific region, scoring 184 votes. It ran unopposed.

If no winner emerges from the second round for the Africa seat, there could be a further round of voting still. After that, the contest could be open to new entrants if neither Kenya nor Djibouti concedes. Alternatively, they might agree to share out the seat, a year each on the Council.