Kenya's Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP
- Amina Mohamed is heir to Kenya’s historic role fashioning the future of Africa.
- Projecting its soft power on the continent, Kenya has invested heavily in humanitarian diplomacy and disaster management.
- But Amina will bring to the AU leadership her immense experience, skills and solid achievements.
Fundamentally, Kenya is the best-suited country to lead the African Union after South Africa. For decades, Kenya’s founding fathers have contributed immensely to the African dream of a continent free of colonial domination, poverty, ignorance and disease.
As the Chair of the AU Commission, Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Amina Mohamed, will move Kenya’s African-centred and assertive foreign policy under President Uhuru Kenyatta to a whole new level.
Conceptually, Amina will mark the triumph of Kenya’s growing soft power capacity now driving its foreign policy.
However, Kenya’s soft power approach to African affairs has always had its ideological naysayers. Writing in Pambazuka news on November 17, 2016, Horace Campbell argued that: “Kenya cannot lead the African Union”.
But Campbell has a hard task backing up his boorish assertion with sensible evidence. Instead, he resorts to parroting of the run-of-the-mill lingo and half-truths – routinely masked for centuries as “knowledge of Africa” – about those African states considered non-leftist.
His assertions are disquieting: “From championing impunity for suspected masterminds of crimes against humanity, to frustrating total African liberation and unity by working in cahoots with Empire; from publicly supporting Israel’s desire to join the African Union, to being a major conduit for illicit financial flows from Africa; Kenya is fundamentally unfit to lead the AU.”
Even more bizarre is his conclusion: “Its [Kenya’s] candidate for Chair of AU Commission in the January (2017) election, Amina Mohamed, is part of a deeply entrenched kleptocracy that has ruined Kenya and actively undermined African interests for over half a century.”
However, beyond the fireside prattles and posturing by churlish armchair scholars, an Amina election will reveal Kenya as an epitome of new Africa – a continent reborn and steered by a new assertive African leadership, the “Uhuru generation”.
Paying tribute to the architects of African liberation during his inaugural speech on April 9, 2013, President Kenyatta urged the spirits of the founding fathers to “rest in peace with the knowledge that this generation is committed to fulfilling their dreams.”
Amina Mohamed is heir to Kenya’s historic role fashioning the future of Africa. In the 20th century, Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s founding father, was one of the conveners of the seminal Fifth Pan-African Congress (PAC) held in Manchester from October 15-21, 1945, who subsequently led their countries to political independence and galvanised the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the AU predecessor, in May 1963.
Additionally, Amina is a proud heir to one of humanity’s most spectacular armed freedom struggles in Kenya, which inspired Africa’s liberation icons such as Nelson Mandela, Ben Bella (Algeria), Agostinho Neto (Angola), Samora Machel (Mozambique) and Sam Nujoma (Namibia).
In the 21st century, Uhuru captures Kenya’s commitment to the African dream in his message to the nations of Africa and the African Union: “We assure you that in Kenya, you will continue to have a partner and an ally”.
In 2013, he unfurled Kenya’s most ambitious and assertive and Africa-centred foreign policy. “The future of Kenya”, he declared, “depends not only on our national unity but also on deepening our bonds with our brothers and sisters in East Africa and Africa as a whole.” The mantle of implementing this policy fell on Amina, Kenyatta’s topmost foreign affairs manager.
But Amina has rightly based her election bid on Kenya’s pivotal role in building the AU as a vehicle for what Mandela and Thabo Mbeki popularised as African Renaissance.
In the 2002-2004 hiatus, Kenya joined Africa’s efforts to establish a continent’s peace and security architecture as the primary instrument for promoting peace, security and stability as enablers of sustainable development on the continent.
SEARCH FOR PEACE
In the pursuit of this agenda, from 2005, Kenya has been the custodian of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that saw the birth of Africa’s newest nation – South Sudan – in 2011. In Somalia, Kenya has spearheaded the search for lasting peace, war on terrorism and hosted Somali refugees.
In January last year, Kenya was elected, for the second time, one of the five member states serving for a three-year term in the powerful 15-member Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union.
Projecting its soft power on the continent, Kenya has invested heavily in humanitarian diplomacy and disaster management.
In September 2014, the country gave $1 million (KSh 100 million) to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to help in the fight against the Ebola disease.
“Standing in solidarity with our African brothers and sisters during times of adversity is part of our foreign policy,” President Kenyatta said.
Further, Kenya has contributed to bolstering the capacity of Africa’s criminal justice system. During the AU Summit in January 2015, Kenya contributed $1 million (Sh100 million) towards the establishment of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the continent’s version of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But Amina will bring to the AU leadership her immense experience, skills and solid achievements. “My credentials, especially in building consensus and carrying out reforms, are critical in bringing everybody together,” she said.
In less than four years as Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Amina has successfully rebooted Kenya’s global image from a country facing the threat of international sanctions to a preferred destination for global trade, investment, massive flow of foreign direct investments (FDI) and events and people shaping the 21st century.
Significantly, Amina served as the host and co/chaired the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference on December 15-19, 2015; the 14th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) on July 17-22, 2016; and the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) on August 27-28, 2016, the first on African soil.
But Amina’s election will rest on her own clarity of vision on the future of Africa.
Prof Peter Kagwanja is the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute and Visiting Scholar at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS).