, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – On assuming the office of US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley made no feigned attempts at political correctness – perhaps taking the cue from her appointing authority – and made it clear that the world power would be ‘taking names’ and given a new sheriff was in town, change was coming to the global institution.
And just like her boss, she’s wasted no time in making good on that promise. According to French news agency AFP, during one-on-one meetings with Security Council ambassadors this week, the new US envoy raised peacekeeping as a priority for cuts. “On UN reform, I think there is a particular interest in peacekeeping,” said a Security Council diplomat.
While Kenya has previously adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach to US President Donald Trump’s previous declarations, this is not a show she can afford to watch impassively from the sidelines with a bemused expression on her face.
Reason? Lives are on the line; more specifically Kenyan lives given the UN is one of two major sources of funding for the African Union troops in Somalia of which Kenya is a major contributor.
“We had over-reliance on two sources: the European Union and the United Nations. Under the UN, the resources that we get come under what you call trust fund or voluntary contributions and those are never predictable because you make an appeal and hold a pledging conference and expect member states to pay then they may come in with their own restrictions.” The immediate former Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission Erastus Mwencha explained.
“The second aspect was that the European Union is also going through budgetary reforms and so they reduced their contribution by a factor of 20 per cent. Even as we speak we’re being attacked and so we need to expand and we have made an appeal to the UN. We have taken it to the United Nations Security Council to say we would like to be under assessed contributions of the UN, not voluntary. That resolution was adopted by the General Assembly in December but we now have to discuss modalities and those modalities will come up for discussion in May.”
Kenyan boots in Somalia will not the only ones affected if Haley succeeds in rallying the UN Security Council around peacekeeping budget cuts. Only a week ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa and agreed to bury the hatchet that led to a withdrawal of Kenya’s troops from South Sudan.
Kenya also accepted to take up command of the peacekeeping forces in Darfur as recompense for the embarrassment caused to it on the international stage by the sacking of its Commander; in-charge of the UN Mission in South Sudan.
Both of which are in Haley’s crosshair’s according to an AFP report published on Sunday. “At the Senate hearing, Haley questioned the decision to send peacekeepers to South Sudan, citing opposition from President Salva Kiir’s government, even though some 200,000 civilians are sheltering in UN bases.”
“The joint UN-African Union mission in Sudan’s Darfur region (UNAMID) is singled out as a costly and ineffective operation because it has been repeatedly blocked by the Sudanese government.”
The US which is “by far” the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping according to AFP, provided nearly 29 per cent of the $7.9 billion budget for this year. It is however looking at bringing that per centage down to 25 per cent. “We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game,” Haley told the US Senate last month.
“US de-funding could open up the door for China — the second largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping and Africa’s number one trading partner — to bolster its role. China’s share of the UN peacekeeping budget now stands at 10.3 percent followed by Japan (9.7 percent), Germany (6.4 percent), France (6.3 percent) and Britain (5.8 percent),” AFP.
The African Union has itself demanded a seat at the UN Security Council table given its 54 member states make up a third of the General Assembly.