NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 23 – “We are living in interesting times,” is the explanation Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i gave for Kenya’s push to have his Cabinet counterpart Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs) head the African Union Commission.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chair of the Cabinet sub-committee charged with the campaign, Matiang’i said Kenya’s readiness to “offer” up the “strong” Cabinet Secretary to the AU was informed by the need for the continent to now more than ever, stand on its own two feet.
“I have been asked why would Kenya nominate such a successful CS and offer her to a continental body. We as a continent will benefit from fresh leadership that will galvanise member states to collectively negotiate better trade arrangements, coordinate sustainable peace and security, invest in transcontinental infrastructure, scale up African best practices in agriculture, healthcare and education, mobilise private sector and realize our continent’s full potential.”
The crux of it all, “self-reliance” as the continent’s traditional development partners look more and more inward with US President Donald Trump reiterating in his inaugural address that it would be “America first” going forward.
“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.”
“But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” he said at his inauguration.
As Trump made clear his foreign policy moving forward, another group of far-right political aspirants met in Germany and called on voters across Europe to follow the example of Britain and the US in choosing to put themselves first by exiting the European Union and electing Trump respectively.
A growing sense of nationalism which Ban Ki-Moon described as one of the biggest challenges his successor António Guterres will face in his capacity as UN Secretary General.
“I’m concerned about this growing trend of nationalism in many, many parts of the world. We are living on, after all, a very small planet. There is not much meaning at this time to the geographical borders or individual national regulations. We are going through such a rapid, transformative process of globalization that we have to act as one human being. We have to act as a global citizen.”
So as Africa moves to get its house in order through the installation of a new set of AU Commissioners, Kenya – Matiang’i said – is keen to field its best given a long history of continental dependence on aid and investment from the US and Europe, its biggest trade partners.
“The African Union needed a new leader who had the respect of the international community, a leader who had experience in leading international organisations, a leader who had a proven track record in attracting investment into the new continent, a leader who had negotiated improved trade agreements and impacted millions of lives on the continent, a candidate that understands good governance and respects Constitutionalism, a candidate that is a proven consensus builder and consummate diplomat; a candidate of both vision and action.”
Kenya has already began to feel the effects of Europe’s tightening purse strings leading to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Europe last year in an effort to secure the continued support of African Union troops in Somalia and his push – during outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Kenya late last year – to have it taken up as a UN Mission.
Kenya’s effort to see Mohamed steer the African Union Commission, Matiang’i however sought to assure, was “highly frugal” despite having Kenya’s special envoys having visited “more than 50 member states of the African Union, some more than once.”