Kenya to Push Africa's Interests at UN Forum

Kenya says it will use its position on the UN Security Council to push ideas useful to Africa.

But some experts say it should propose reforms at the UN's most powerful organ.

Friday, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said Kenya will be returning to the Council after 23 years, with many new issues affecting the world. But she indicated that Kenya will give priority to issues affecting Africa.

"We shall have our eyes firmly fixed on Africa, including the situation in Somalia, Darfur, Central African Republic, Great Lakes, Sahel and other regions of our continent that need special attention," she told journalists in Nairobi yesterday.

The areas she mentioned are some of Africa's most active conflict zones, which have previously been the subject of the council's resolutions.

"Kenya will have an opportunity to shape the global agenda and ensure that our interests and the interests of Africa are heard and considered. We now have a voice at one of the most important decision making forums," she added.

On Thursday, Kenya won a seat on the council after defeating Djibouti. The victory came after a gruelling fight for votes that saw the voting go into a second round. In the end, the country won with 129 votes, just two more than the required 127, as Djibouti got 62.

Kenya says it will push its ten-point agenda, a list of priority areas it pitched during campaigns, while on the council.

The priority areas include fighting terrorism, justice and human rights, environmental conservation, reconciliation, youth and women empowerment as well as sustainable development. Others are peacekeeping, humanitarian work - including hosting refugees- and regional security.

Specialists in international relations say the country has a good chance to push for UN reforms from within the council.

"Kenya should continue championing the reform and expansion of the UNSC because this agenda is in the best interest of Africa. It must be brave and articulate African voices robustly and not allow great power rivalry to undermine the common interests of African states," Dr Cliff Mboya, a China-Africa relations expert, told the Nation.

Kenya has previously been part of the African Union Committee on UN reforms through which the continent argued for an expanded list of permanent members of the council to include at least one from Africa.

The council has 15 members but only five are permanent with powers to veto. They are France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Russia. The five got this privilege at the end of World War II and were chosen based on their population size and economic might at the time. However, these qualities are no longer just the preserve of the five.

The AU argued that the continent receives most of the decisions from the council, yet it has no permanent member.

It added that bickering among the permanent members has often delayed or hampered the resolution of major global crises.

Some countries like India (which was elected alongside Kenya this week) and Germany (which will be exiting in December after completing its term) have equally called for reforms.

"Kenya should remember that this is not a Kenyan victory but a responsibility to represent the collective interests of the continent, the divisions notwithstanding," said Mboya. "Its actions must inspire trust and confidence in the AU. The first task must be to reach out to Djibouti and through the AU to ensure it gets their support during its stint at the UNSC."

He added: "Regional cooperation must be top on the agenda for Kenya going forward following the voting patterns of its regional partners like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. The AU should devise a new protocol to ensure this kind of competition doesn't happen in future."

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