Despite initially having a strong position at the UN Security Council against Russia invasion of Ukraine, Kenya was among the 58 abstentions on the vote to suspend Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council.
At a meeting of the UN general assembly on Thursday, 93 members voted in favour of Russia’s suspension, 58 abstained, while 24 voted against the resolution.
Russia was effectively suspended from the Council as the vote attained the two-thirds majority needed.
There have, however, been questions on whether Kenya is softening its position against Russia, having voted against it in the past two resolutions. This was also despite Kenya two days earlier warning that atrocities in the town of Bucha by Russian troops were flagrant violation of international law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Ambassador Macharia Kamau also met Russia Ambassador Dmitry Maksimychev on March 10 at the Ministry Headquarters in Nairobi.
In a caption that accompanied the photos shared on Twitter, the two discussed “matters of mutual interest”.
Ukraine Ambassador to Kenya Andrii Pravednyk is yet to meet either the PS or Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary despite formal requests for audience. The Brief also understands and confirms the Embassy has sought audience with Parliamentary leadership, which is yet to be granted.
However, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Martin Kimani, who gave one of the most praised speeches against the invasion at the Security Council has defended Kenya’s position.
Ambassador Kimani said Kenya abstained from the General Assembly vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council as it had called for “a prompt, independent investigation of the serious crimes in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine” at the UNSC.
He also said that the vote was premature and that in future the HRC may appear biased and weaponised.
Weighing in on the issue, Kenya’s Ambassador to Germany Tom Amolo said another rule in geopolitics is that “when you are in a hole, stop digging” and tagged Ambassador KImani and PS Kamau.
— Ambassador Tom Amolo, EBS. (@amolosango) April 8, 2022
On April 5, Kenya had called for an impartial and prompt UN investigation into the atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other towns in Ukraine.
In also explaining the move, Ambassador Kimani roped in the NATO intervention in Libya in a tweet: “Look before jumping is a good guide in geopolitics. On 1 March 2011, Libya was suspended from the @UN_HRC. On 19 March @NATO started its intervention. On 20 Oct, Gaddafi was murdered. Fighters & weapons flooded the Sahel & West Africa. 10s [tens] of thousands of Africans have died since”.
Some scholars have linked the neutrality of many African states on the Russia invasion to their scepticism towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its motives.
Olayinka Ajala, a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, argues that some African countries, including South Africa, see NATO as the aggressor with its expansion eastwards.
This, in the view of the African countries, constitutes a threat to Russia, Ajala writes for The Conversation.
“South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the organisation for the war in Ukraine, saying the war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ajala says.
This is also not the first time African countries have been sceptical of NATO’s activities.
“In 2012, Sam Nujoma, the former president of Namibia (which abstained from the March vote) argued that NATO’s overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi should be condemned and rejected by all right thinking Africans. The invasion of Libya and the subsequent killing of Gaddafi resulted in destabilisation in North Africa and the Sahel. The result is that Nato has become quite unpopular in several African countries,” he says.