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EXPLAINER: Why Kenya is fighting for UNSC non-permanent seat

The race for Africa’s representative at the United Nations Security Council has heightened and is almost turning ugly.

Despite Kenya being the Africa Union’s sole endorsed candidate, Djibouti, a little Horn of Africa state, is still in the race.

Djibouti said in a statement on February that it had successfully challenged the validity of AU’s endorsement of Kenya for the African Group’s Non-Permanent UNSC seat.

Kenya released a statement the following day rejecting Djibouti’s statement.

Kenya won against Djibouti on a 37-13 vote, which was necessitated by the failure to agree, through consensus, on Africa’s representative after 19 months.

The fight with Djibouti is not the only pointer to what’s at stake. The other is the amount of resources the government is splashing in its campaign for the June elections.

For the second time, Kenya is hosting international diplomats based in the UN and AU in Mombasa in its lobbying for the UNSC seat.

At least 25 diplomats are attending a seminar on the war on terrorism and extremism, which is one of Kenya’s 10-point agenda at the UNSC in its campaign, up to February 21.

The elections will be in June this year.

So what does Kenya stand to gain with this seat?

The Security Council’s primary responsibility is international peace and security.

The council has 15 members—five of them permanent—each of which has one vote. Only the five have veto powers.

The council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.

“It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security,” the UN website says.

We, thus ,believe we will be able to bring world’s premier decision-making organ on peace and security to focus on a region that has huge opportunities but one that could have a huge portfolio of risk not only for the region but for the world

Former Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma

Kenya has based its campaign for the UNSC seat on a 10-point agenda.

They are building bridges, peacekeeping and support operations, regional peace and security, counterterrorism, women peace and security, youth empowerment, humanitarian action, justice, human rights and democracy, and environment and climate change.

To start with, Kenya has been among states pushing for reforms in the UNSC.

The continent is pushing for two permanent and five non-permanent seats for African states to be filled by candidates agreed on by the AU.

Former Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma, during the Africa Union Committee of Ten on the United Nations Security Council Reforms, noted that UNSC reforms are imperative for efficiency, transparency and accountability.

The reforms, Juma said, form the cornerstone for the UN to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century.

“The African position would guarantee relevance for the UNSC, whose more than 75 per cent of its agenda in Africa,” she said in Mauritania, on the sidelines of the 31st AU Summit in Nouakchott.

A seat in the Security Council would help Kenya push this agenda from within.

“Calls for reforms to the composition of the Security Council have gathered pace in recent years. As I found in my research these have been fuelled by allegations that the dominance of the current P5 has produced an outdated body, which isn’t representative of the wider international society,” Gary Wilson, senior lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University, writes in the Conversation.

“In addition, by virtue of their place at the table, non-permanent members have a voice on the pressing issues of the day. For instance, states such as Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden all made significant contributions to the Council’s response to humanitarian issues arising from the conflict in Syria.”

In this regard, Kenya is likely to use this opportunity to deal with the maritime dispute with Somalia.

In the dispute, Kenya prefers negotiations to having the matter heard at the International Court of Justice.

In addition, Kenya views itself as the best candidate because its troops are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which supports the fight against al Shabaab, another agenda in its campaign.

Professor Macharia Munene of USIU-Africa told the Star that Kenya’s presence at the Council will be of great value, but will depend on her interests and values for its citizens.

The seat also offers a good platform to provide leadership and participation on global issues such as climate change, human rights and international development, which is what Kenya has pegged its campaign on.

Foreign Affairs editor at the Nation John Gachie said Kenya stands a better position bearing in mind the interests it has for the region, especially the fight against terrorism.

“Kenya has made its way to the international category by its tremendous support to humanitarian work. We host approximately 500,000 refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, most of them from South Sudan and Somalia,” a diplomat in the Foreign Affairs ministry told the Star.

“This is why in our view we stand a better chance to allow us to progress and expand this work to other African countries,” he said.

Juma, in an interview in Manhattan with Citizen’s Jeff Koinange, said the Horn of Africa has attracted a lot of global interest and attention and, thus, requires full attention.

“We, thus, believe we will be able to bring world’s premier decision-making organ on peace and security to focus on a region that has huge opportunities but one that could have a huge portfolio of risk not only for the region but for the world,” Juma said.

In the ministry’s strategic plan, it noted one of its challenges as external interference.

The seat also offers a good platform to provide leadership and participation on global issues such as climate change, human rights and international development, which is what Kenya has pegged its campaign on.

Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau maintains representation in the UNSC is significant because it is the second-most important arm of the UN after the General Assembly.

“It deals with global peace and security and every country is entitled to sit at the council. Kenya’s candidature signals its responsibility and contribution in the peace and security process world over,” Kamau said.

The election

A country must receive at least two-thirds of the votes of the General Assembly delegations present and voting to win a seat in the UNSC.

Voting is by secret ballot.

The UNGA has 193 members; if all take part in the vote, Kenya will need at least 129 votes to win.

The 10 non-permanent UNSC members are elected for a two-year non-renewable term. A member can, however, stand for election after some time.

The seats are shared unevenly among the UN regional groups: African and Asian States; Eastern European States; Latin American States; and Western European and other States.

African and Asian States are allocated five seats.

Elections are held to fill five seats every year; different seats are filled in odd and even-numbered years.

In the even-numbered years, two seats for the African and Asian Groups; one for the Latin American and Caribbean Group; and two for the Western European and Others Group are filled.

In the odd years, three seats for the African and Asian Groups; one seat for the Latin American and Caribbean Group; and one for the Eastern European Group are filled.

 

Sources: The STAR

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