Restless or ambitious? Will Amina scoop it this time?
Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram
Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture Amina Mohamed is hitting international headlines again.
In a span of one week, she has turned out to be the talk of the day on the global scene in spite of having joined the race for the influential post of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General in the last minute.
Amina, a highly respected name in international diplomatic circles probably has tossed herself in a league she prefers to frequently, if not comfortably, feature in after she applied for the job only three weeks ago to join seven other aspirants— two of them Africans—for the coveted global saddle.
Amina is not new to aiming for higher goals. A former UN Habitat Under Secretary-General, Amina has in the past two decades served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Kenya’s representative to WTO.
Two years ago, she was even being touted as a potential Governor for Kakamega county where she was born and attended her early primary and secondary education.
She ran for the chairperson of the African Union Commision in 2017 but lost the bid to Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The paradox in Amina’s hunt for the WTO job lies in the fact that while she aims for higher honour at the global arena, she is continually relegated to less prestigious assignments, begging the question as to whether she is restless, over-ambitious or lacks belief in national duty.
Having unsuccessfully contested for the same seat in 2013, she is this year pitted against Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Abdel-Hamid Mamdou of Egypt, Mohammad Mazia al-Tualjri (Saudi Arabia), Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea, Jesús Seade Kuri (Mexico), Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova) and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom, all who appeared before the WTO General Council in Geneva last week to make their submissions.
Should Amina scoop the seat, she would become the second Kenyan to hold an international docket of massive influence, the first one being the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, a former Minister for Trade.
When asked to comment about Amina’s chances in the WTO contest, Kituyi elected to be non-committal, arguing that his position does not allow him to give personal views on such a matter.
Kituyi told the People Daily: “As a United Nations Under Secretary-General, I cannot proffer an opinion about a candidate for WTO.”
That notwithstanding, Kituyi’s respect and positive assessment of the Sports Minister are widely known to his long-time courtiers.
When he served as Trade Minister, Kituyi heaped praise on Amina when she served as Kenya’s representative at the WTO office in Geneva, stating that “we have a very competent and open-minded person there.”
A retired diplomat who spoke to People Daily in confidence said that in spite of all the circumstances favourable to her, Amina faces some unseen challenging hand in form of her religious background, gender and timing of her application.
The former envoy noted that though Amina’s previous experience at the WTO places her ahead of the pack, she submitted her application so late in the day when most countries had already taken positions on the other candidates, leaving her with slim chances of upsetting the arrangement.
Insofar as her gender is concerned, it would either be an advantage or a strength in her bid.
The diplomat noted that the global trade agency has never had a woman at its helm and it would therefore be an uphill task for Amina who, on that particular front, is pitted against Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank employee and former Minister in her country in addition to presently being a member of the World Bank Covid-19 Response panel.
“If the battle has to narrow down to women, the West will obviously look at her Nigerian competitor as one of their own given that she has previously worked at the World Bank,” the source said.
Another diplomat saw it from a religious angle, observing that since the Western capitals have more say at what goes on at WTO, they have been averse to persons of Islamic origin, the same fate that faces her Egyptian and Saudi competitors.
The former envoy to North America said the leading economies in the West tooth-comb nominations of persons of Islamic background before endorsing them to hold an international seat, a trend that could alater the stakes for Amina.