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AU reiterates backing Kenya in UNSC vote

Saturday June 13 2020
au

A general view of a plenary session at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 17, 2018. PHOTO | MICHAEL TEWELDE | AFP

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

The African Union has reiterated endorsing Kenya for the upcoming vote for the UN Security Council seat in what could strengthen Kenya’s chances ahead of the election due June 17.

The continental body’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN in New York this week circulated a note to all permanent missions indicating only Kenya should be contesting for the non-permanent seat allocated for Africa this year.

"The Mission has the honour to remind that the African Union endorsed the Republic of Kenya for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2021-2022,” the Mission headed by Ms Fatima Kyari Mohammed, said in the note on June 9.

The move by the AU came after the Africa Group, the association of African members at the UN which routinely work together to push policies for the continent at the UN, indicating Kenya had received due endorsement at the African Union last year in August.

Botswana’s Permanent Representative to the UN Collen Vixen Kelapile, the current chair of the group, then asked the AU Mission to clarify the status of African candidature to the UN Security Council.

For Kenya, the message from the AU could be the needed marketing stance it needs to garner as many votes for the non-permanent seat on the UN’s most powerful organ.

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But it is competing against Djibouti, which took part in the secret ballot at the AU and lost, initially conceded defeat, but turned around to contest the procedure of endorsement. Djibouti have argued they should be the sole African candidate this year based on the rotation policy and given the fact that Kenya has been at the UN Security Council more times.

However, there are no rules on how many times one should contest. South Africa, for instance, has been on the UN Security Council three times in the past 12 years. It will be leaving the seat at the end of this year to be replaced by the winner between Kenya and Djibouti. Nigeria also contested, and won, the seat just two years between victories in 2012 and 2014.

“Facts are truly stubborn. Kenya is the legitimate candidate of the African Union and Africa and deservedly so. Kenya is ready to serve. Vote Kenya, Vote for Africa,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Macharia Kamau said on Thursday, in the wake of AU’s move.

Djibouti’s Permanent Representative Mohamed Siad Doualeh contested the Mission’s stance, arguing that the African Union Summit “overturned” the endorsement. In truth, however, the issue of Kenya’s candidature was not on the AU meeting’s agenda last February.

There are 15 members of the UN Security Council, the body charged with passing binding resolutions on global peace and security. Five of them; Russia, China, UK, France and the US are permanent members with vote powers on substantial decisions. The other ten are non-permanent and can only sit on the council for a maximum of two years, and cannot be immediately re-elected.  Every year, five non-permanent members leave the Council and must be replaced.

This year, India, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and Norway are the other countries seeking the seat available to their respective regions.

Traditionally, African countries rarely compete for the vote in the UN Security Council seat, even though winners must garner at least two thirds of the vote from all eligible UN member states.

This is because the AU often endorse its candidates, using its Rules of Procedure before they can front their interest to the UN. Often, the AU uses a rotational policy, where chances are allocated to each of the five regions; East, West, South, North and Central.

These rules are sometimes flouted, however, as it happened Mauritania contested against Morocco. The former falls in the West African bloc, but neighbours Morocco, which technically means it straddles the regions.

Usually, regions themselves agree on a candidate before it is forwarded to the AU for endorsement.

Sometimes it follows negotiations. In rare occasions, the AU has had to decide who contests if more than one country shows up. Consensus is the most preferred method, although secret ballots are used if that does not work.

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