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President Uhuru Kenyatta. /PSCU-FILE.

Fifth Estate

How Kenya can make its UN victory count for Africa

After two rounds of voting characterized by anxiety and diplomatic maneuvering, Kenya floored Djibouti to secure a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Kenya’s decisive victory is not just a recognition of its international profile. It also speaks to the country’s diplomatic dexterity and capacity to hold brief for the continent at the United Nation’s principal organ, having been endorsed for the position by the African Union.

Kenya is no stranger to the UNSC. The country has twice served as a member of the Council in 1973-1974 and 1997-1998. The East Africa’s biggest economy assumes a third tenure at the UN body beginning January 2021, at a very historic moment.

The world is currently swamped by a global pandemic that is consuming lives and livelihoods; creating socio-economic vulnerabilities with unprecedented peace and security implications. Africa is particularly hard hit by the health crisis; and leaders across the continent are desperately seeking sustainable solutions to the pandemic.

Secondly, the continent continues to be home of intrastate conflicts with far-reaching humanitarian implications. Lives have been lost and millions uprooted from their homes. Non-state actors such as terrorists and violent extremists are working overtime to turn swathes of African land into ungovernable spaces.

Thirdly, the world is experiencing a new wave of protectionism and narrow nationalism that only pays lip service to the enterprise of multilateralism. Working alongside other challenges such as climate change, the emerging mode of international engagement is likely to disempower developing economies – many of which are in Africa.

How then, can Kenya make a lasting and productive contribution to the global community during its 2 year term at the UNSC? The country brings to the Council a unique yet enviable history of peaceable coexistence and strong conflict resolution credentials. Having weathered internal conflict and emerged stronger with working institutions and flourishing democracy; Kenya can be relied upon to provide leadership and guidance to other conflict ridden societies in the continent and beyond.

Africa has for a long time pushed for reforms to the UNSC. The continent is home to 54 countries with a population in excess of 1.2 billion. The permanent membership of the UNSC should not end with nuclear capability. Kenya goes into the body with the blessings of Africa. It can play its diplomatic role to ratchet additional reforms that should ultimately lead to the continent having a permanent representation at the UNSC. This is even more critical, given that majority of the issues referred to the UN organ concern Africa.

Kenya is starting from a clearly defined 10-point agenda and issues that were collectively agreed on by the continent. At the end of its tenure, Kenya will be evaluated on the issues. They include: sustainable development goals, climate change, women and youth empowerment, countering terrorism, peacekeeping; and how all these dovetail into the continent’s peace and security function. Kenya already has strong credentials in many of these areas with a guided foreign policy that pays sufficient attention to these salient issues.       

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By projecting the interests of the continent, Kenya will also emphasize the need for unity of the region: a prerequisite to the realization of Africa Agenda 2063 aspirations in which the continent hopes to emerge as a strong, dynamic, prosperous and influential global player.  

As the only host of a United Nations Body – UN Habitat, in the south, Kenya’s multilateral affinity should further manifest in its posture at the UNSC. Countries and organizations are choosing Nairobi as their focal points of operation in Africa. As a rules-based society and strong democracy in the region, Kenya is no doubt a better qualified candidate to carry the voice of Africa in the world of diplomacy’s foremost organ.

The writer is a PhD student of international relations. Twitter: @Cavinceworld. Email:   

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