Amina an inspiration to Kenyan women despite setback in Addis

Monday February 13 2017

Amina Mohammed

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed addresses women leaders at Intercontinental hotel on February 1, 2017. She failed to clinch the AU chair post. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A lot has been said about Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed’s failed candidature for chairperson of the African Union Commission.

That my friend and colleague Amina came so close to winning the coveted position is a triumph for Kenyan women.

The loss is disappointing, but the lessons learnt are invaluable.

Her candidature was strong — so strong that she survived to the final round where political and regional gerrymandering took over.

Her candidature is an indicator that we have some of the best brains on the continent and that women across Africa and the world can aspire to the highest political and administrative offices.

That challenge is now to our youth to aim higher.

Amina has won admiration across Africa and the globe and that defeat at the African Union should not deter other Kenyan women from aspiring to reach these lofty heights.

It is foolhardy to reduce Amina’s loss to local politics.

Students of international relations will easily tell you that regional interests are usually paramount in such settings — and more than that, national interests also prevail when the push comes to shove.

Also, we should not underestimate the might of various economic blocs within the African Union.

Amina had the backing of the East African Community.


The other regional blocs — Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Arab Maghreb Union — were divided in their trust in the other candidates: Chad’s former Prime Minister, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, veteran Senegalese diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily, Mr Agapito Mba Mokuy from Equatorial Guinea and Botswana’s Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

That our own Amina survived to the last two is a triumph at a time when her candidature would have broken the tradition of having the seat alternate between Anglophone and Francophone countries.

The previous chair was South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

We have also learnt our lessons in international diplomacy and Kenya should not shy away from supporting its best candidates for such international jobs.

Kenya was until recently shy to float candidates for such international positions and it is only in 2013, when the government backed the nomination of Dr Mukhisa Kituyi as the secretary-general of Unctad (UN Conference on Trade and Development).

Dr Kituyi won the seat and has performed well.

Ever since our own Prof Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize, the place of Kenyan women in the international arena has become respectable.

Women should follow the dreams of other pioneers such as Prof Maathai and other African women who have triumphed against odds.

The fight for gender equality, the continued support for Kenyan women whether at the local or international levels, should be a continuing project.

For many women in Kenya, the Amina upset is a reminder that there is still much work to be done in the fight for gender equality.

But her candidature was a big signal to our daughters and sisters that they can still run for the top positions – that they have a future and can still aspire and dream.

Amina does not represent our shattered dreams.

Rather, she represents the hopes and aspirations of millions of women and girls in Africa, who aspire to lead the continent and make a difference.

And that is why, she should walk tall and follow in the footsteps of other great women leaders, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Theresa May, Ellen Johnson-Sirlef, and Hillary Clinton, who have kept the aspirations of women high.

Ms Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. [email protected]