Kenya will take over the presidency of the UN Security Council on Friday, seeking to steer debate on crucial problems in Africa, such as weapons smuggling, ethnic identities and relations with regional blocs.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a video statement he was looking forward to “joining other world leaders at the Security Council in confronting and addressing the intractable challenges to peace, security and development that face our world today”.
The presidency of the security council is rotational, each member can hold it for a month. Ireland was president in September. India held it in August.
The presidency, which lasts for a month, means that President Kenyatta himself or delegations he authorises from Kenya can preside over meetings of the council, whether they are open debates or closed events to discuss ongoing crises across the world.
Usually, the council, the UN’s most powerful organ whose decisions are legally binding, identifies crucial issues around the world, which could be a threat to peace and security. In the past, they discussed things as varied as the Ebola epidemic to war in Yemen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia or the growing threat of climate change in the Lake Chad Basin.
This time, Kenya takes over amid the growing demands for Covid-19 vaccine equity, dangers of climate change to small islands, terrorism as well as the continual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Monday next week, the first session Kenya will preside over will involve discussions on whether to extend the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, a bureau established in 2019 to help strengthen political stability and good governance, including the rule of law; advance a peaceful and stable environment and human rights.
But the country has faced problems since. In July, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. He had ruled by decree since January, as Parliament’s term had expired, and his death left a vacuum. Last month, the country was hit by an earthquake before a tropical storm known as Grace struck the region.
The UNSC members initially differed on a common line of support. In fact, the UN backed Claude Joseph as interim president until proper elections, while another group led by the US backed Ariel Henry as interim prime minister. The PM had signed a deal earlier in September for a roadmap to elections at the end of 2022, but has faced parties opposed to long delays.
Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Martin Kimani, said on Tuesday Kenya wants more support for the Caribbean island to build its own security institutions.
“What we learnt will count,” Dr Kimani said after meeting with Dr Joseph in New York, ahead of the session on the future of the Office.
Support Haiti’s institutions
A dispatch from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Nairobi will want the world to support Haiti’s local institutions to tackle their insecurity, economic problems and governance. “It is in the interest of the world to see that Haiti can become a productive and peaceful member of the international community,” it said.
Haiti, though, will only be part of the bigger picture. On Friday next week, Kenya will preside over a briefing on small arms and light weapons as a factor of peace. Kenya says small arms are responsible for most deaths in conflict zones as they can easily be smuggled or traded illicitly.
October is also the time for the secretary-general’s biennial report on small arms and Kenya says the council must “critically assess the trends of the circulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons in peace operations, assess the UN and regional measures in place, and consider how to leverage existing commitments to deal with the menace”.
On October 12, Kenya will preside over an open debate on peace building, sustainable peace, diversity and state building. Presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta in person, Kenya will want world leaders to discuss the connection between rising inequality, environmental stress and increasing population and how it fuels conflict.
“This implies that a core imperative for effective peace and state building is to successfully mediate important group dynamics and differences centred around such factors as colour, ethnicity, religion, history, social status among others, to reinforce the sense of broadly shared nationhood and belonging,” a brief shared with diplomats in Nairobi says.
Working with local regional blocs
Later, Kenya plans a debate on how the UN can work with local regional blocs such as the African Union, seeking to limit what African countries have argued as an overbearing stance by the UN on the continent. The council, which has no African permanent member has made most binding resolutions on Africa than any other place.
“Collaboration and productive burden sharing, is the practical and pragmatic approach of sustainably addressing contemporary threats,” Nairobi said in a brief, calling for African solutions for African problems.
These debates will be addressed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as well as leaders from the AU, European Union and other blocs. As a non-permanent member, Kenya may not preside over the Council again until after two decades as its term ends in December next year.
But October could be the month when Nairobi can push some of the promises it made while campaigning for the seat; including localised solutions for peace and security, as well as addressing the causes, rather than just results of conflict.
Women and peacebuilding
Nairobi wants the council to focus on women’s role in peacebuilding and will also preside over a meeting on the Great Lakes Region, which it argues has been an arena for foreign entities, amid conflict. And Kenya says recent electoral successes in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo signal the benefits of allowing local solutions.
“The generally peaceful transfers of power in the DRC and Burundi, as well as the signing and implementation of peace agreements in the CAR, South Sudan and the Sudan, illustrate the positive momentum.
“More recent developments include the normalising of bilateral relations between DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi,” it said.