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Kenya has interesting but challenging work at the UN Security Council

By Macharia Munene | August 2nd 2021

Kenya is at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the third time mainly to do two things; to safeguard African and Caribbean interests and to help shape ongoing global power realignment. In safeguarding those interests, Kenya advances and protects its own interests not just by being at the ‘table’ but by deliberately choosing to turn ideals into realities. It has to create realities of its choice by developing a ‘grand strategy’ that anticipates both the expected and the unexpected challenges to its ultimate aim.

This would imply taking into account available resources and limitations, both domestic and international. More importantly, it has to figure out how to overcome the limitations and to turn them into stimulants for finding resource alternatives to get the job done. In this sense, Kenya’s vision becomes the engine for creating new realities. Kenya can create realities at the UNSC based on its ideals.

Having served in the same capacity before, Kenya has experience in turning ideals into realities. In the 1970s, it managed to convince the United Nations to locate its environment headquarters in Nairobi, the only UN headquarters outside the US and Europe. In 1998, after the August 1998 terror attacks on American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, it was instrumental in the development of the UNSC Resolution 1189 on international terrorism. It now takes up the leadership of the A-3 +1 at the UNSC involving Niger, Tunisia, and the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to push for the AU and the Caribbean interests at the UNSC. The ambassadors of the four countries were in Kenya for a retreat and to consult President Uhuru Kenyatta on goals and strategies.

They needed, noted PS Macharia Kamau, to adopt common approach in developing capacities to protect African and Caribbean legacy. Uhuru’s vision is to make Kenya’s UNSC mission “a strong voice for a united Africa, for the Global South and the General Assembly.” His man in New York, Ambassador Martin Kimani, wants to speak for “smaller developing states, for the global south and for all countries great and small” and be the link between council members and non-members to produce solutions to local and regional challenges. Kenya to intensify its peacemaker role, leveraging on multilateral organs to capacitate fragile states.

With Kenya slated to occupy the UNSC presidency for a month in October 2021, understanding the common agenda is critical. Among the activities for A-3+1 is to handle the P-5 positively to offset un-necessary negativity as they tackle existing and looming conflicts. There is, for instance, the simmering Ethiopian-Egypt feud over the Nile and the Renaissance Dam; Egypt has appealed to the UNSC to intervene and has been creating ‘defensive alliances’ with Ethiopia’s neighbours, including Kenya. Although Ethiopia and Kenya have had defence understandings directed mostly at irredentist Somalia, they recently developed some differences. Manoeuvring between Cairo and Addis over the Nile waters will be a test for Nairobi at the UNSC. Kenya should also deal with the civil war that started in Tigray and is spreading to other Ethiopian regions.

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