, ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan 31 – “Is my lipstick okay?” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed whispers to a protocol officer before the cameras are trained on her; focused so tight her every pore visible.
It’s a question asked more out of the necessity to display strength and put on a brave face in the face of a hard blow, that borne out of any vanity.
It is after all evident from her glistening eyes that the tears are not far below the surface and are being held back by a wall of fortitude.
She sits on a seat that had just minutes before been occupied by the leader of the majority in Kenya’s National Assembly who’d tried to explain what went wrong in the room.
“The room” being the African Union Assembly Hall where Heads of State and Government of member states and their delegations voted on the next AU Commission Chairperson; it was not Mohamed.
“Fear,” is what she attributed her loss to; her loss to Moussa Faki Mahamat of the Republic of Chad.
Fear of an independent continent, she said. Fear and divisions; divisions along lingual lines: Francophone African vs Anglophone Africa.
“The funny thing is, we’re divided along language lines that are not even ours to begin with,” she said but there was no laughter in her words.
A politician, Aden Duale – having been in the room – got down to nuts and bolts of things; the fear was a fear of what Ambassador Mohamed represented in terms of a future relationship between the continent and the International Criminal Court; a fear of the defence she’d already mounted on behalf of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic’s right to self-determination.
“Scared” is what Ambassador Mohamed believes the “deceptive” got when they realised “Kenya might actually win.”
The ‘deceptive’ a reference to Kenya’s neighbours who’d been heard “gloating” over her loss. “You know Kenyans are straight forward people and going forward we’ve learnt that appearances can be deceptive.”
“Friends” – without naming names – is how Duale had referred to those Kenya believes turned their backs on them in their hour of need by voting against them.
“It’s quite telling that 16 countries abstained from the final vote,” Mohamed said.
The post-mortem concluded, Ambassador Mohamed said, it was now back to work. “I already have a job,” – that of Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary.
The imminent task, managing Kenya’s foreign relations with some of its neighbours now that it knows who, in the words of Duale its “true friends” are.
Mohamed’s diplomatic take? “God put us together, we have to work together.”