Kenya asked too much from AU

Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed who is vying to be African Union Commission chair
Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed who is vying to be African Union Commission chair

The

dust is yet to settle on the energy-draining and resource-gobbling campaign by Kenya for the election of Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed to the position of African Union Commission chairperson. So intense was the lobbying that both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto traversed the continent to lobby for her support.

On Election Day, Chad’s candidate Moussa Faki, earlier seen as a weak contender, won with 38 votes in an intense race that went to the seventh round. Mohamed’s loss immediately sparked a flurry of emotions among Kenyans, the majority on social media, demanding to know why millions of shillings were devoted to a processes that ended in naught.
A closer look at how the campaigns were done reveals some of the factors that could have led to this result.

First, Mohamed came into the limelight after the July 2016 AU Heads of State Assembly in Kigali, a meeting that failed to elect an AUC chairperson. The Economic Community of West African States bloc had raised a pre-election petition, in which it slammed the aspirants as unqualified and it consequently abstained.

To the chagrin of the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community, who had both fielded candidates for the July 2016 as well as the January elections, Ecowas’s candidate carried the day. Regional interests and the inability of Nairobi to decode the intentions of other states made it impossible to translate public endorsements into votes.

Second, Mohamed’s candidature was premised on her performance in Kenya’s onslaught against the International Criminal Court. When Kenya managed to rally AU member states against the ICC, this was translated by Nairobi as a full endorsement by Africa.

However, granted that self-preservation may have motivated many African leaders to join the anti-ICC call, the continent was ideally helping President Kenyatta. This is because at the time of his election, the ICC was an issue in only eight African countries; four of the situations

were self-referred.
Third, Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, still held the position of the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC. The principle of inclusivity was therefore a stumbling block.

Fourth, the AU is yet to prove useful in addressing continental issues such as trade, terrorism, climate change and democracy. Part of the problem lies in the inability of the organisation to independently finance its programmes. With $8

of every $10 spent by the AU coming from the West, you can guess who calls the shots when it comes to its management.

Kenya’s abrasive relations with the West following the election of President Kenyatta, including the ICC question, could have played a part in the edging Mohamed out. It is possible that the country could be living with the consequences of its earlier choices.

Fifth, the foreign relations of any country hinge to a large degree on domestic politics. Despite reservations expressed by a strong domestic constituency on the sustainability and credibility of Mohamed at the AU, Kenya was not shy to demonstrate its enthusiasm and invoked nationalistic tendencies that flew in the face of the integration spirit.

Interestingly, a functional foreign affairs unit should have undertaken a SWOT analysis of the prevailing ecosystem and acted accordingly. It was therefore rather embarrassing to see the Foreign Affairs CS break into futile lamentations regarding the cold reception she got from Kenya’s hitherto presumed staunch allies such as Uganda.

In essence, Mohamed should simply have blamed herself. The Addis Ababa debacle was a collective failure of Kenya’s foreign policy instruments and strategies, which Mohamed herself has presided over since she was appointed.

Her excessive and non-strategic display of emotions further alienated her from contemporaries across the continent; even making her unsuitable to serve at the helm of Kenya foreign affairs desk. It is therefore surprising that she has not found it fit to resign.