Kenya lobbies for Commonwealth top job

Friday September 03 2021
Kenya's Defence CS Monica Juma.

Kenya is lobbying for its Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma (pictured) to be appointed Commonwealth secretary general. PHOTO | POOL


Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Fred Matiang’i Thursday lobbied for support from Zambia for Kenya’s bid for the Commonwealth top job when he met new President Hakainde Hichilema.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta last week proposed Defence CS Monica Juma for Commonwealth secretary general.

The meeting in Zambia signalled the launch of Kenya’s shuttle diplomacy among the 54 member states of the bloc who must all endorse Ms Juma for her to get the seat.

Zambia, like Kenya, belongs to the Commonwealth, colloquially referred to as the Club, and includes the UK, its former colonies, and Rwanda and Mozambique.

Kenya and Zambia, both former British colonies, also belong to regional blocs such as the African Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Sothern Africa (Comesa).

“[Dr] Matiang’i who flew to Lusaka Thursday morning [and] conveyed President Kenyatta’s entreaties to Mr Hichilema to support Kenya’s candidate for the post of the Secretary General for the Commonwealth of Nations,” the Interior ministry said in a statement.


Besides the UK, notable members of the Commonwealth are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania among others.

They vote under a special meeting known as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting [CHOGM].

Decisions, including who to select as Secretary General or whether to extend the term in office for the incumbent, are based on consensus, meaning that all members must agree.

If successful, Dr Juma, a career diplomat, will become the 7th Secretary General.

She will compete with British diplomat Patricia Scotland whose first term was set to lapse last year, but was extended twice due to Covid-19. Ms Scotland is still eligible for a second four-year term, although she has not clarified whether she will stand again.

“The Commonwealth members enjoy military, education, governance, sports, cultural and geopolitical cooperation pacts intended to strengthen the organisation bonds,” the statement said.

In the last vote, African and Caribbean members of the Commonwealth voted as a bloc. Ms Scotland was born in Dominica before relocating to the UK.