November 21st 2017

Top Stories / National

Why Kenyans are 'celebrating' our own Amina Mohamed’s loss

This apparent lack of strategy is blamed for the debacle that saw the DP lead campaign delegations even into countries that had candidates for the same position, such as Chad.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 31 Jan 2017 10:13 EAT

Mr Ruto with President Deby during the visit.

Away from a hotly-contested by-election result, few issues have divided Kenyans as much as the failed bid by foreign affairs minister Amina Mohamed for the post of African Union Commission chairmanship. Although the reaction to Ms Mohamed's loss reflects the partisanship along CORD-Jubilee lines, there are quite a number of government supporters who believe the campaign was ill-conceived and cost taxpayers' significant money for no reason.

The popular view is that Kenya went about its campaign the wrong way. The public was not informed about how Kenya came to stake its claim for the position. "We just woke up to media reports of the deputy president leading delegations across Africa campaigning for Ms Mohamed," said one good governance campaigner.

According to a diplomacy expert, Kenya's interest in the position should have been determined by the cabinet or parliament. Kenyans would have been informed appropriately. Kenya then should launched the public campaign by gaining the confidence of the region through a formal presentation at the East Africa Community, then IGAD before going elsewhere on the continent.

“Did @AMB_A_Mohammed or @UKenyatta at anytime address Kenyans to say why it was important for her to Chair AU Commission? Kenya never lost,” civil society activist Ndungu Wainaina wrote in a Twitter message after Ms Mohamed’s loss, reflecting the popular criticism about the unilateralism of Ms Mohamed's candidature. 

This apparent lack of strategy is blamed for the debacle that saw the DP lead campaign delegations even into countries that had candidates for the same position. For example, on Monday November 7, Mr Ruto visited Chad, which had nominated its Foreign Affairs Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat (the eventual winner), to persuade President Idriss Deby to support Ms Mohammed.

President Deby did not endorse Kenya. He said the successful candidate would need to push for reforms that Africans desired in the United Nations. “We do not want someone who will take instructions from outside Africa,” said President Deby. However, local media included Chad among the countries that had allegedly pledged to support Ms Mohamed out of the DP's trips, among others Ivory Coast, Ghana, Zambia, Algeria, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. 

The media was mostly likely misled by a government statement which said that Mr Ruto “was encouraged by the willingness showed by the countries to support Amb Mohamed’s candidature” during his trip. The statement reported Mr Ruto telling Deby that Ms Mohamed had the experience to drive the African agenda forward.

“The minister sits in the executive council of Africa Agenda 2063 and understands where we want to take the continent. We have a clear infrastructure that her leadership will help us achieve,” he was reported saying. But by then the campaign, dubbed 'shuttle diplomacy' had become unpopular with Kenyans, seen as costing the country dearly when the leaders had not explained Ms Mohamed's qualification for the job even to Kenyans.

The press carried reports of the DP using private jets hired at exorbitant costs. Late November, the Star newspaper ran a story indicating that the kind of jet the DP's delegation was using costed between Sh1.6 and Sh2.3 million per hour to hire. A bevy of officials accompanying the DP were paid huge daily allowances as well. 

Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe told the newspaper that it would be “way much more expensive” to take a commercial flight. “When it comes to flying these delegations, you can't afford commercial. It's not easy, it is way much more expensive and takes way much longer.”

Notwithstanding the explanations, the anti-Mohamed bandwagon coalesced only more interests, with a dossier emerging in December, probably authored by disaffected Foreign Service staff, that alleged gross financial impropriety on the minister's part. Among the allegations was that one of the jets used in the shuttle diplomacy was from a company owned by Ms Mohamed’s brother who was charging the public dearly for its use.

The dossier is currently filed in a petition to Parliament urging MPs to investigate the minister for corruption. With these undercurrents, it was expected that some Kenyans would celebrate the loss. 

Kenya’s leaders have embarrassed themselves before the entire continent, a loss born more personally by the president, as Professor Makau Mutua wrote. “I'm INCREDULOUS @KagutaMuseveni + @PaulKagame STABBED @AMB_A_Mohammed in the back. SHAME. With such friends @UKenyatta doesn't need enemies,” the professor wrote in his Twitter and Facebook pages.

Others went sarcastic. Dennis Makori, “Were Amb Amina Mohammed to win the AU chair, she would have opened business opportunities for Kenyan businesses across Africa. We could have sold Kenyan milk and ‘sugar’ to more countries. We would have a ready hand to do our shuttle diplomacy whenever needed. When one Kenyan lose, we all lose!”

Left with egg on their face, the government’s supporters have been left to preach patriotism, as did Elizabeth Layla Kimkung, a popular Jubilee blogger: “So sad to see my fellow Kenyans celebrating on the loss of Amb. Amina Mohamed. Shame on you all who are celebrating. Please remember she is a Kenyan. I am sure other countries are wondering how wicked are we to each other, how do we wash our dirty linen worldwide, are we not our brothers' and sisters' keepers?”

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