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Kenya ready to face Djibouti in crucial Security Council vote amid maritime dispute with Somalia

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

DJIBOUTI - The impending battle for a slot at the United Nations Security Council is about African values, Kenya has warned, adding that it is not interested in campaigns centered around candidature.

Djibouti has come out as one of the toughest opponents to Nairobi for African slot, despite the fact that the African Union had settled for Kenya as the sole continental representative for June polls in New York.

At Addis Ababa in August 2019, 37 African nations voted in favor of Kenya as African representative to Djibouti's 13, but the Horn of Africa nation would later engineer a global campaign, which now threatens Kenya's stakes in the powerful council.

Ismael Omar Guelleh, the Djibouti president, defended the decision to rejoin the race, arguing that the vote at Addis Ababa did not "follow the procedure", adding that the exercise was "deeply flawed". This has now sparked one of the fiercest and robust campaigns between the two nations.

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi on Wednesday, Kenya's Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Kamau Macharia said Djibouti is also free to campaign for the seat, adding that members will make a decision next month when they congregate in the US.

“We are all in the race so let them race because they have been exercising their rights. It is a fair competition,” he said, adding that the country is prepared to face Djibouti in the race to replace South Africa at UNSC.

He said Kenya no longer considers the matter about the candidature but the values and the principles it has chosen to abide by. According to him, Kenya is keen to run a dignified campaign rather than make calls.

“As a country we have remained restrained, choosing to run a dignified campaign that upholds African values and which focuses on the contribution it intends to make towards creating a just and peaceful world,” the envoy said, poking holes at Djibouti's dishonorable campaigns.

In recent weeks, Djibouti has portrayed Nairobi as toxic, citing the maritime dispute with Somalia as one of the "weak points" in Kenya's quest at the UN body. The case between Kenya and Somalia has been at the International Court of Justice for over four years now.

On Tuesday, The Hague-based court postponed the Indian Ocean maritime dispute to March next year upon request by Kenya for the third time. Already, Somalia is supporting Djibouti for the council seat due to its strained relationship with Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has been banking on its 10-point agenda in its campaign — building bridges, peacekeeping, and no support operations, regional peace and security, countering terrorism and prevention of extremism and women peace and security.

Others are youth empowerment, humanitarian action, justice, human rights and democracy, environment and climate change agenda and the sustainable development goals agenda. Kenya is one of AMISOM contributing nations.

No matter the outcome of the polls, Macharia noted, Kenya will continue playing an integral role in integration and peacebuilding processes around the world. The UN has already recommended for physical voting.

“There are many other areas on both the regional and international platforms that Kenya is actively involved in and will continue to even after the election. UNSC is just a fraction of that,” said Macharia, who once served as Kenya's envoy to the United Nations.

Djibouti has already gotten support from the Arab League of Nations which comprises 22 countries besides the backup from Francophone nations in Africa. But Kenya has narrowed down the campaigns to huge voting blocks, among them the European Union.

Both counties are keen to succeed in projecting themselves as regional economic and security powerhouses, despite the fact that Djibouti hosts the US, China, and the French military. Kenya has been strategical to the West for decades.

Prof. Macharia Monene, a lecturer at USIU-Africa, told the Star that Nairobi stands a better chance due to its commitment in the fight against violent extremism besides hosting thousands of refugees mainly from Somalia and South Sudan.

“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,” he noted.


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