The test of diplomacy

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By Joel Okwemba

The pride of a people is judged by the level of diplomacy held by the state. In the recent past, there have been efforts by Kenya to secure important positions and promote certain agenda at the multi-lateral level – the African Union and the United Nations.

A notable success however was that Kenya co-chaired and led the negotiation process that culminated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals passed in September 2015. A pending and looming challenge is to secure the Non-Permanent Membership to the United Nation Security Council (2021-2022) as expressed by the Cabinet Secretary in the First Media Briefing on March 8, 2018.

As Kenya prepares for it, we must ask, what have we learnt from the other attempts that can augment our creative diplomacy approach this time around? While the answer to that question is in the minds of the thinkers and strategists in government, a few factors can be analysed to shape and direct the diplomatic paint brushes to lupitaize the world once again with Kenyan our beauty, pride and wits.

Kenya has been a member of the UN since 1963 and has served on the Security Council’s non-permanent seat for our years cumulatively. By June 2020, Kenya would need to have won two-thirds of voting member states, or at least 129 votes if all 193 UN states cast a ballot. Currently, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivore and Equatorial Guinea are the African Group representatives at the Security Council. It is not known yet which other African countries have expressed interest.

How do we do it?

This year marks a century since the end of the Great War (WWI), the period marked a transition from a multi-polar order to a bi-polar order there is likely to be a change from unipolar to multipolar system with the emergence of new powers and balance of power in the international order. Dr. Henry Kissinger, a former US Secretary of State, in a recent interview noted (in reference to the declining role of America in the world) that, “I think Trump might be one of those figures who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.”

Kenya’s leadership should begin by consolidating regional support. The East Africa Integration process has had challenges which could cost the country political progression in the global community. While focus has previously been put on tangible infrastructure, much remains to be done in the intangible infrastructure and software that keeps the Community together.

The varying socio-political systems in the member countries  inhibit the very idea of a political federation.  Perhaps a community premised on development cooperation could prosper and an initiative to integrate the East Africa Community (EAC) with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to unite the Greater Horn of Africa Region, with the help of Ethiopia’s rejuvenated leadership, could be the place to begin.

Alternative financing of the African Union Peace and Security Operations must be solved to distance the continent from donor fatigue and seek African solutions for African Problems. Kenya must augment the Silencing the Guns Initiative of the African Union Commission to support the Africa Peace Fund in ending all conflicts in the continent by 2020 and realising financial predictability and sustainability.

The group of 77 (G-77) with 134 members is the largest grouping of developing countries in the UN, providing the means for developing countries to articulate and promote their collective economic interests, and enhance a joint negotiating capacity. Kenya could lobby support through Egypt (current African country chairing) and develop a two-year engagement framework with the next two Chairs for 2019-2020. The UN Conference on Trade and Development where Secretary-General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi sits, can assist in promoting the South-South Trade links through Kenya’s leadership and programs. (

— Writer is Managing Director, Centre for                 International and Security Affairs, Nairobi

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