Wednesday June 11 2014

Kutesa vote as UN boss set for 10p.m. tonight


The 193 UN member states are due to vote in New York at 3p.m. (10p.m. EAT) for a new UN General Assembly President.

Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, the sole candidate of Africa whose turn it is to provide the replacement for outgoing Antigua and Barbado’s John Ashe, is widely expected to be confirmed by acclamation.

A diplomat says the voting was initially scheduled to take place at 10a.m., which would be 7p.m. Ugandan time, before it was shifted to 3p.m. (or 10p.m. in Uganda). There was no immediate reason for the re-scheduling.

Ugandan diplomats at the New York Mission, reinforced by a coterie of their superiors from Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kampala, are reported in an overdrive campaign to ensure Kutesa sails through after an online petition sponsored by US-based Ugandan Milton Allimadi to block his election gained more than 7, 000 signatures.

Mr Allimadi an international rights campaigner separately raised questions about Mr Kutesa’s record and Uganda’s enactment in February of the Anti-Homosexuality law the West considers “odious and discriminatory”.

“I don’t believe that anybody should be blocking my presidency on those lines…I urge the protagonists not to squabble. The issues they are raising have no basis,” Mr Kutesa told Daily Monitor ahead of his trip to New York.

Under UN procedures, actual competition and choice-making for rotational slots takes place at regional level and rarely at the UN headquarters. As such, no surprise candidate is expected to surface within the next four hours to contest against Mr Kutesa, whom the African Union unanimously endorsed last year. Africa’s endorsement followed Cameroon’s withdrawal of its unexpected challenger, which had threatened to polarise Anglo and Franco-phone countries.

Ugandan officials,  however, are leaving nothing to chance, and working up the telephone lines in New York as well as charming voters in hallways of the UN headquarters to guarantee that Mr Kutesa sails unopposed.

In Kampala, Mr Michael Wangusa, the Communication Officer in the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda confirmed that the election gets underway in four hours.

“Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Honourable Sam Kutesa will today be elected as the next President of the UN General Assembly. The ceremony will take place at 10p.m. Ugandan time (3p.m. New York time),” he notes in an email.

The proceedings will be telecast live on UN Web TV at  after which, Mr Kutesa is expected to immediately hold his maiden press conference as UNGA President-designate. If chosen, as expected, Mr Kutesa will chair the next UN General Assembly in September as the highlight of his 1-year tenure.

His term is expected to cost at least $2 million or Shs5 billion, according to diplomatic sources, and the UN will out of this provide roughly 15 per cent in-kind through office and security provision. Uganda and other friendly countries will cover the substantial budget.

There is no tangible benefit Uganda is expected to derive from Mr Kutesa heading UNGA, although the post is expected to offer the country more visibility and elevate its international profile.