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Kenya’s Setback as Nancy Karigithu Fails to Secure UN-Agency Position

Kenya’s Setback as Nancy Karigithu Fails to Secure UN-Agency Position

Kenya’s hopes were dashed as Nancy Karigithu, the country’s Maritime Special Envoy, failed to secure a prominent role within the United Nations (UN) system.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council on Tuesday announced the appointment of Arsenio Antonio Velasco of Panama as the next Secretary-General, dealing a blow to Kenya’s aspirations.

This setback has once again brought to the forefront accusations of Kenya’s poor lobbying efforts for its candidates seeking positions in international agencies.

Despite the considerable experience and qualifications of Nancy Karigithu, the appointment for the four-year term as the next IMO Secretary-General was granted to Arsenio Antonio Velasco.

The news came as a disappointment to Kenya, which had been actively supporting Karigithu’s candidacy. This outcome underscores the challenges faced by Kenyan candidates in securing influential roles within international organizations.

Karigithu’s candidature entailed building on her alliances and presenting Kenya as an African maritime powerhouse.

Accusations of Poor Lobbying Efforts

Kenya has long been criticized for its perceived inadequate lobbying efforts when it comes to securing positions for its candidates in international agencies.

The failure to effectively advocate for its representatives has raised concerns about the country’s diplomatic strategies and the ability to mobilize support from the international community. This missed opportunity serves as a reminder of the importance of strong lobbying efforts in the global arena.

The then Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo lost her bid to become the first female President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development last year.

Omamo (pictured) sought to exit President Kenyatta’s cabinet through vying for the prestigious position in the UN-founded Agency, lost to Spain’s Alvaro Lario, a champion of private sector investments who was serving as the agency’s top finance executive.

Her failure to clinch the global seat came after weeks of silent lobbying from the government of then-President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Unlike Monica Juma’s nomination for the post of secretary-general to the Commonwealth in late August last year, which saw President Kenyatta issue a statement and a recorded video, Omamo’s nomination as Kenya’s candidate was a low-key affair such that the nation came to learn of her selection by Kenyatta from the official website of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Big Blow for Kenya

The latest development comes as a second blow for Kenya, six months after the former Africa CDC Acting Director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma was floored by a Congolese Dr. Jean Kaseya, for the continental health body’s top job.

Ogwell, now acting Deputy Director General of Africa CDC had acted for more than one year after his boss Dr. John Nkengasong was appointed by the American President Joe Biden to lead the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in 2021.


Image of Africa CDC's Ag. Deputy Director General Ahmed Ogwell Ouma

Insiders at the Addis-Ababa-based organization blamed the Kenyan government for deserting Ogwell at the last-minute including denying him meetings with the Country’s top diplomat, William Ruto.

The position he is holding in an acting capacity has been readvertised. Will Kenya fail him again?

Former Energy Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, currently serving as National Security Advisor to President Ruto pulled out of the race for the post of secretary-general to the Commonwealth in late February last year suggesting divisions in the club of mainly former British colonies about her candidature.

This was after her spirited bid with Nairobi lobbying far and wide and spending millions of taxpayers’ money heavily trying to persuade member states to vote for her. 

In October 2016, President Kenyatta nominated his then-foreign CS Amina Mohamed as Kenya’s candidate for the African Union Commission chairperson but she lost her bid to chair the continental body because of what was described as Kenya’s ‘’greediness’’ for such posts by some diplomats in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

After the vote in 2017, South Sudan’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, James Morgan, said Kenya failed to convince even some of its closest allies from the East African Community to vote for Amina.

‘’South Sudan voted for Kenya but it is surprising that Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Tanzania did not vote for Kenya during the stages. We think it has to do with how Kenya relates to its neighbors. Burundi said Kenya interferes with her internal affairs by condemning the conflict there,’’ the envoy told the Standard in an interview.

Amina blamed her loss on the two main languages spoken in Africa.

“Africa is divided along language lines even though the languages don’t belong to us. Yet the authors of those languages do not fight among themselves,” said Amina.

Three and a half years later after she unsuccessfully contested for the chairperson of the African Union Commission, President Kenyatta nominated Amina Mohamed again as Kenya’s candidate for the World Trade Organization but she missed the cut to the final round of the race to lead the global trade body.

She and two others — Liam Fox (United Kingdom) and Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia failed to secure enough support.

The inability to secure prominent positions within international organizations has had significant implications for Kenya.

These roles provide a platform for countries to influence global agendas, shape policies, and contribute to decision-making processes.

By not having a strong presence in key UN and AU agencies, Kenya may find itself, though a Regional hegemony at a disadvantage when it comes to advancing its national interests and participating in critical discussions on global, continental, and regional affairs.

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