T was great to see Kenya unleash a diplomatic charm offensive to rally the continent behind Amina Mohamed’s candidature for the African Union Commission’s top job.
In itself, the job is powerful and lucrative. It gives the holder quite a diplomatic leverage both within the continent and beyond. If she clinches the job during the election planned for January, Kenya’s international profile will receive a major boost. The win will give the country high bargaining power on the continent and all the way to the United Nations.
For example, the diplomatic charm offensive spearheaded by Deputy President William Ruto went beyond seeking for votes for Mohamed. It had an element of bilateral talks: Some kind of scratchmy-back-and-I-scratch-yours dividend.
It is not just about Kenya asking for the vote. It also includes a promise of what Kenya will do in return for those countries that honour the request and vote for her, in the event that she wins.
Thus, the diplomatic effort Kenya has put in is okay, bearing in mind that states compete for these jobs and the fact that they accrue leverage in diplomatic terms. Besides, this is a powerful position whose holder can influence the agenda of the African Union and determine the course of Africa’s diplomacy. In any case, Kenya is endowed with resources and, thus, it can afford the kind of effort that we saw last week when Deputy President Ruto led the offensive across the continent with a visit to several states. Many countries on the continent lack the resources to put in the kind of effort that Kenya has done.
Good as the effort was to the country’s image, my fear is that the government’s effort may amount to nothing. There are serious challenges that Kenya will have to overcome. Mohamed’s bid for the position may falter because of factors independent of this diplomatic charm offensive.
First of all, Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, is already the deputy chairperson at the Commission. It is unlikely that 54 Africa states will swallow the idea of two nationals from one country holding two very senior positions at the Commission.
Mohamed, just like the outgoing chief, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, is a woman. Some states have already expressed reservations about one woman succeeding another and therefore they will be reluctant to support her bid.
Kenya’s decision to pull its troops out of South Sudan has introduced a hitherto unseen challenge to the bid.
IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT KENYA ASKING FOR THE VOTE. IT ALSO INCLUDES A PROMISE OF WHAT KENYA WILL DO IN RETURN FOR THOSE COUNTRIES THAT HONOUR THE REQUEST AND VOTE FOR HER, IN THE EVENT THAT SHE WINS