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Kenya steps up vote hunt for UN Security Council seat

Monday September 16 2019

UNITED NATIONS

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma addresses a media briefing on September 13, 2019 at Intercontinental Hotel over the maritime border issue with Somalia. She said that Kenya is pursuing its bid for a seat in the United Nations Security Council. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Kenya is on Monday launching its bid for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, banking on its diplomats across the globe to do the promotions, amid tighter budgetary cuts.

Emerging from victory at the African Union last month, Kenya says that in fronting the campaign comprising diplomats and senior government officials, it would be killing two birds with one stone.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma called it a “well-crafted strategy” to reach out to partners across the globe, targeting some 129 votes out of the 193 member states of the United Nations with voting rights.

“The costs, so far, have been very minimal and we are using existing structures. The instructions to every head of mission is that they campaign at every opportunity they engage in,” she told reporters during the quarterly press briefing in Nairobi on Friday.

“We will rope in other government officials so that, as they travel for other businesses, they promote our candidature. You are not going to see any choppers flying around. It is not that kind of campaigning,” she said, using the imagery of flamboyant political campaigns seen in Kenya at election times, but actually referring to the expensive trips abroad.

AUSTERITY

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The move to opt for frugal campaigns may be part of lessons learnt in 2017 when an expensive campaign for the chairperson of the African Union Commission failed to deliver victory to Kenya.

Some estimates indicate that Kenya spent about Sh400 million.

The National Treasury has also restricted expenditure on travel, entertainment and publicity, which cost the government some Sh30 billion in 2018.

Acting National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani argued that the cut-down on expenditure was meant to reduce budget deficits, allowing the government to spend cash on more useful development programmes.

Specifically, government officials were told last week they will be ineligible for quarter per diem if their foreign trips were sponsored by third parties.

AFRICA'S GROWTH

In 2018, they spent Sh15.5 billion on travel. And while it isn’t necessarily extravagance, the National Treasury thinks they can save this cash.

In the meantime, Kenya will today launch the bid in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, seeking to win a seat it hopes will elevate the image of Nairobi as well as the Horn of Africa.

Under the theme “Peace and security for sustainable development”, Dr Juma said Kenya’s pledge to Africa is to push for the UN to work more through regional bodies.

Though seeking only to be a non-permanent member for 2021-2022, Kenya says it could use the position to influence policies favourable to the region.

Often, non-permanent members do not decide on substantive votes such as sanctioning a country, but the rotational presidency of the Council gives opportunity for influencing agenda.

Dr Juma argued the Horn of Africa has specifically become important to the world, facing security challenges even as it remains an important corridor for communication.