Kenya builds bridges in UNSC campaigns

Saturday February 01 2020

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks at General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters last year. The country hopes to become a member of the UN Security Council. FILE PHOTO | AFP


Kenya is extending its “building bridges’’ initiative to the world in its campaign for a seat at the UN Security Council set for voting on June 17.

At a retreat for permanent representatives held in Mombasa this week, Kenya said that lessons learnt about peace and security in dealing with domestic issues could help the UN in addressing recurring problems in the world.

Nairobi said its local experience as well as participation in regional security matters could help the global body stay “in touch with reality”.

According to a pamphlet circulated to UN member states representatives in Nairobi and New York with a vote at the Security Council, Kenya wants to “build bridges” in the international arena, an initiative from the political reconciliation between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The pamphlet outlines a 10-point agenda that includes search for justice, human rights and democracy, as well as countering violent extremism and a humanitarian action for refugees and those in famine situations.

Four senior diplomats in Nairobi told The EastAfrican that the idea is President Kenyatta’s solution to world crises; and also a campaign to elevate the country’s status on the world stage.


“Our experience is that the UN Security Council ought to involve everyone, and it should specifically work with regional mechanisms because they know how to define the problems correctly and therefore get durable solutions,” a diplomat said on the sidelines of a government-sponsored diplomats retreat in Mombasa, referring to local peace deals as well as in South Sudan and Sudan.

Kenya, endorsed by the African Union, is seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the most powerful body of the UN charged with maintaining peace and security.

The country recently increased its campaigns, which include speaking with envoys from across the world and sending emissaries to capitals.

Djibouti in the race

But even as Kenya campaigns for the SC seat, Djibouti, which had also sought AU endorsement, remains in the race, criticising the procedure adopted by the continental body.

Foreign policy experts told The EastAfrican the outcome may be defined by how well each side promises to defend the UN system.

“The UN runs on certain norms; Kenya should pitch campaigns on how it will fulfil these norms,” said Dr Patrick Maluki, a lecturer in diplomacy at the University of Nairobi. He was referring to the formative principles of the UN body such as world peace and collective responsibility.

“There is a feeling that the UN is heavily led by the North so one needs to campaign for reforms. It is one thing to get endorsed [by the AU], it is another to get the actual vote. The contender must keep the fire burning and continuously seek confirmation even from those who have pledged to vote for you,” Dr Maluki said.

The African Union Group, which is drawn from permanent representatives from the AU member states at the UN, represents the joint largest group of 54 states.

The AU Summit in Addis Ababa next week could discuss the issue to see if Djibouti could withdraw from the race.

“It is a matter of trust. It is about convincing the world that you will do everything to make them feel safe,” Macharia Munene, a professor of History and International Relations at USIU-Africa told The EastAfrican.