Jamaica Foreign Affairs minister and Commonwealth Secretary General candidate Kamina Johnson Smith is expected in Kenya as part of her African tour.
Johnson will meet Kenyan Foreign Ministry officials to discuss her vision for the Commonwealth and the importance of the Africa-Caribbean cohort in the family of Commonwealth Nations.
The Minister will visit eight Commonwealth member states in Africa between May 8-14. She will meet with government officials from Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana.
Johnson said she looks forward to meeting with members of the Commonwealth in Africa to discuss the shared aspirations for development.
In a statement shared by her media handlers, Johnson said she is inspired by the unique relationship that characterizes the Commonwealth.
“She believes in the Commonwealth Charter as a framework to promote co-operation among member states, fostering friendship, fraternal dialogue and mutual respect.
“Her transformative vision for the Commonwealth includes a renewed commitment to food security, delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, advocacy for small states, gender and youth empowerment, good governance, and technical cooperation,” the statement said.
Johnson said she is committed to advancing collaboration, building consensus and promoting peace and prosperity within the Commonwealth.
“African nations play a central role in determining the future of our Commonwealth and ensuring its shared values extend well into the future,” the minister said.
The election is set for June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Minister Johnson Smith announced her candidature in April.
Kenya’s Energy CS Monica Juma— formerly Foreign Affairs and Defence — dropped her bid in February, despite securing the backing of the African Union for the post. There are 19 Commonwealth members in the AU.
While it is not clear what triggered her withdrawal, some quarters cited lack of adequate support from Commonwealth countries for Kenya’s bid.
Incumbent Patricia Scotland is seeking to defend the post for her second and final four-year term.
Scotland from the UK was nominated to the post by her native country Dominica in 2015 and is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
Efforts to oust Scotland have divided member, with Gaston Browne, the chairman of Caricom — a 15-state Caribbean group — in September saying attempts to remove her are contrary to the principle of rotation between regions, and the tradition of holding the post for two terms.
“Our Commonwealth family has until now held to the tradition of at least two terms for a secretary-general and to the principle of rotation between regions. It now appears the separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific have been, or are being encouraged to present candidates in opposition to the current secretary-general.
“This runs counter to the principle of rotation which would see Africa assuming the office of secretary-general in 2024 when the Caribbean’s turn would come to an end followed in turn by the Pacific,” Browne, who is also the prime minister of Antigua, said in a letter to fellow Commonwealth heads quoted by The Guardian.
Johnson visit to Kenya follows that of Scotland, who on April 28 met Deputy President William Ruto for what his International Relations aide Ababu Namwamba said was to “further enhance the special ties between the Commonwealth and Kenya”.
Ruto said he acknowledges Commonwealth’s approval of his peaceful campaigns, adding that, “We commit to working closely with the association towards free, fair, transparent and democratic elections that will pave the way to a smooth transition after the August polls”.
Minister Johnson is Jamaica’s first female Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
She serves as Leader of Government Business in Jamaica’s Senate, and is the Chair of the Cabinet’s International Relations Sub-Committee, a member of the Economic Growth and Job Creation Sub-Committee.
Johnson is also a member of Jamaica’s National Security Council.
Her role at the international level includes chairing the CARIFORUM group and opening of discussions with the UK regarding post-Brexit trade arrangements.
She has served as President of the ACP Council of Ministers, presiding over the process that secured the negotiating mandate of the ACP for a post-Cotonou Agreement with the EU.
In her first term as Foreign Minister, Johnson was appointed as president of Council of the International Seabed Authority.
She also chaired the Caricom Council of Foreign Ministers and the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development.
She was the first Jamaican Foreign Minister to be invited to G7 and G20 meetings.