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What membership at the UNSC means for Kenya

Kenya has won the much-sought after seat at the United Nations Security Council and many Kenyans have wondered how the win translates into any pragmatic advantage for the country. The UNSC is the world’s most powerful and exclusive political and diplomatic entity. The members of the UNSC collectively form the Community of Nations which wields power to blockade countries, impose sanctions on individuals, companies and countries and even go to war against a state or group of states. It has 5 permanent members comprising of superpower states – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. All these states emerged winners of the World War II with the exception of China. It also has 10 non-permanent seats, with rotational membership.

The functions and powers of the UNSC are covered in Articles 24-26 of the UN Charter and include:

i) maintenance of international peace and security

ii) agreement to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council

iii) regulation of armaments

iv) formulating plans for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments to be submitted to Member States, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.

The membership reflects the geopolitical realities of the day, and the UNSC has been a major force in shaping the globe’s geopolitical landscape in the last 75 years, from the decolonisation of Africa and Asia that created Kenya, the wars of the Middle East, the global struggle against Jihadist terrorism, and the titanic battles for supremacy between the US, Russia and China.

Even though the Council has a global mandate, Africa constitutes a major chunk of its work. According to the IPI Global Observatory, which closely tracks UN developments, in 2018, over 50 percent of Security Council meetings, 60 percent of its outcome documents, and 70 percent of its resolutions with Chapter VII mandates concerned African peace and security issues. These issues include the results of the conflicts and fragility in Africa and in the greater Eastern African region.

Kenya yesterday joined a bloc called the A3 which basically comprises three elected African states. The other members are Tunisia and Niger. Given the magnified focus on Africa that the UNSC has, Kenya’s entry into the powerful Council is largely consequential. These are some of the contributions that the country can make during its term:

  1. Advancing peace in the region and in Africa. Kenya now has the capacity to actively champion for peace, push for technical assistance and enhanced coordination to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts in the region and in Africa.
  2. The Pan-african agenda – President Kenyatta has had a powerful vision of a united Africa in a multilateral & more stable world. Kenya’s membership in the Council gives this vision more gist and prominence, while also opening the door to many more opportunities for the pragmatic application of the agenda.
  3. The March 2018 Handshake reflects early response and proactive conflict prevention and reform values that the world needs urgently. Kenya’s push to build a more inclusive and competent government through the BBI process will make our voice on these matters authentic.
  4. Consolidating Africa’s voice & position in the Security Council and the 10-point agenda as outlined during the campaign period.