President Uhuru Kenyatta with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the sidelines of the UNGA, New York, September 25, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the sidelines of the UNGA, New York, September 25, 2018.
Image: PSCU

By Correspondent

At sunset tomorrow, a group of 25 diplomats will board a magnificent wooden boat in Mombasa for five hours of pure luxury and pampering.

The evening dinner cruise at the magical Tamarind Dhow will begin at the pier at about 6.30 pm. The envoys will be ushered into the Swahili dhow by a friendly waiter dressed in traditional garb and directed straight to a private table.

Here, cocktails will be in plenty. From a mixture of vodka, lime, honey and crushed ice to non-alcoholic beverages, the choices are not limited. 

As the dhow snakes its way past the pier towards Fort Jesus, the cool waters, twinkling stars and the streetlights of Mombasa combine to create a breathtaking scenery of the old town.

Then the music will begin to play as mouthwatering four-course dinner is served. Yes, the dinner is not ordinary, it will mainly be seafood such as grilled lobster.

By the time the dhow turns back and gets to the Tamarind Jetty, it will be 10.30 pm and the foreign guests would be full and maybe tipsy.

Welcome to the life of pure luxury that the Kenyan government is giving to permanent representatives to the United Nations as part of its lobbying to win a two-year, non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

According to the Star, Kenya, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is splashing millions of shillings to win the seat that is also being eyed by Djibouti.

Over the last two months, Kenya has flown into the country at least 45 permanent representatives to the UN as part of its “soft power” to win over the world. The first batch of about 20 diplomats was hosted last month, while the flight carrying the latest batch of 25 from New York touched down in Nairobi on Sunday.

They were received by Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic Secretary Tom Amolo and hosted for two days at the five-Star Radisson Blu Hotel. The cheapest room at the hotel costs at least Sh27,000. In

Amolo, a former Kenyan envoy to Nigeria, has also been given the unique role of being the special envoy for Kenyan UN Security Council candidature.

The diplomatic campaign mirrors a similar crusade in 2016 when Kenya was pushing now Sports CS Amina Mohamed to become the African Union Commission chair. Amina was beaten by Chad’s Moussa Faki, despite a spirited campaign that saw millions spent.

Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo and AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki at the organisation's Headquarters in Addis Ababa on February 5, 2020.
Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo and AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki at the organisation’s Headquarters in Addis Ababa on February 5, 2020.

Then, Kenya charted a private plane for Deputy President William Ruto for a marathon Pan-African campaign.

Questions are now being asked why Kenya is spending too much to get a seat whose direct benefit remains debatable 

“Why are we spending too much to get this seat when we are talking about austerity measures?” a top official in government asked while speaking to the Star yesterday.

Sources said all the diplomats were flown on business class. A Kenya Airways flight from New York to Nairobi costs around Sh300,000 one way alone for business class. This means a return ticket would be around Sh600,000.

It, therefore, means that on transport alone, the exercise could have gobbled over Sh2.7 million.

After their arrival on Sunday, the visiting guests were treated to a dinner at the Carnivore Hotel by Foreign Affairs CS Rachelle Omamo.

Between 6 am and 8 am on Monday, the envoys were taken for a game drive at the Nairobi National Park, complete with breakfast in the wild.

They were then taken to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and then lunch at the Village Market hosted by Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau. They then visited UN offices in Nairobi before a sumptuous dinner at Radisson Blu Hotel.

According to the plan seen by the Star, by yesterday morning, they were set to visit the International Peace Support Training Centre in Embakasi before being flown to Mombasa. The ambassadors were booked at the Whitesands Beach Hotel.

Today, there would be a daylong session, dubbed ‘Changing face of terrorism and extremism: practical responses to security’.

Top Ministry officials led by PS Kamau, Amolo and CAS Ababu Namwamba were not available for comment.

However, Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna said the government will continue to invest in both bilateral and multilateral relations for the benefit of Kenyans.

“Sometimes it is not how much that has been spent but the value of the investment that will come with such an initiative. It is an investment with great value for the country,” he told the Star.

Sources said it’s at this forum where Kenya would be rooting why it should be elected to the 15-member UN security council.

Immediate former Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma and Director of National Counterterrorism Centre Martin Kimani would be among the speakers at the seminar. Also invited are National Assembly Defence and Foreign Relations committee members led by Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito.

It’s after the seminar that the envoys will be taken for dinner on the Dhow –Tamarind. Dinner in the dhow at Tamarind costs Sh5,800 per individual.

Tomorrow, they will be hosted for both lunch and dinner at Forodhani Hotel. They will then be flown back to Nairobi on Friday, taken for a visit to Galeria Mall and later a reception at State House, Nairobi, before they depart back to New York.

It’s not clear whether the campaign had triggered a falling-out in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, in a memo to 15 top ministry officials, Amolo asked those unwilling to facilitate the coming of the diplomats to come out clear.

“I request your indulgence to assist in enabling us to execute this very important assignment. If you cannot do it, just let me know… This is for Kenya,” he wrote in a memo dated February  14.

The 25-member Security Council is a snapshot of the world after World War II. It has five permanent members, the Big Five —Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. They all have veto power.

The other 10 members are non-permanent, five are elected every year for a two- year term. They must have a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly of 193 members.

The UN has two non-members with observer status, the Holy See and Palestine. They have the right to speak but not to vote.

There have been many scenarios to reform the Security Council and make it more reflective of present-day realities, such as adding more permanent members and nonpermanent members.

But the UN Charters says the council’s composition can not be changed without the approval of the Big Five — and no nation votes against its self-interest.