President Museveni has written to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, formally tabling Uganda’s displeasure and protest over his recommendation to drop Entebbe as a UN regional service centre.
In the letter sent last week, the President noted as “unfair” a decision to pick Nairobi over Entebbe to host the world body’s regional service centre in Africa even when Uganda and Kenya are “friendly neighbours”.
The other two recommended locations are the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and Mexico City --- one of the world’s dangerous cities rife with murders, drug traffickers and criminal gangs.
Secretary-general Guterres, in a May 1 report to UN’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), noted: “The location assessment proposal is contingent on host country consultations...this combination of locations (Budapest, Mexico City, and Nairobi) would provide time zone and regional coverage, ensuring a strong business continuity...”
ACABQ is a 16-member committee of experts elected by UN General Assembly whose members, in theory, serve as individuals rather than respective country representatives and its decisions are not final.
Conflict of interest
Its current chairman is Mr Carlos Massieu, a Mexican, raising the possibility of conflict of interest when the committee this week begins considering the UN secretariat’s report also favouring Mexico City.
In his response to the proposed changes, President Museveni informed Mr Guterres to ensure that Uganda is fairly treated and that UN functions and facilities are shared equitably among member countries during the Global Services Delivery Model reforms.
He also reminded the secretary-general that Uganda, which was the pioneer and remains largest troop contributor to the African Union Peace-keeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), deserves to host a UN regional service centre due to the country’s substantial contributions to regional peace and security.
The UN boss is yet to respond to the concerns raised.
Investigations by this newspaper show that Kenya’s former Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, whom President Uhuru Kenyatta early this year tapped to become Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary, led his country’s lobby from 2016.
A former senior UN staffer for 25 years, Ambassador Kamau reportedly exploited his vast professional networks and presented his country’s plans to build a Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and start of Kenyan Airways’ direct Nairobi-New York flight, due in October, as sweeteners to sway UN secretariat to accept Kenya’s capacity to seamlessly handle staff movements and logistical supplies for an expanded regional centre.
It remained unclear how, if at all, the then Ugandan UN Ambassador Richard Nduhuura countered Kenya’s diplomatic charm offensive.
Not lost yet
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa yesterday told this newspaper by telephone from Cairo that Uganda has not lost out yet, and is not giving up, as diplomats in Kampala ramped up an international offensive for retention of the Shs21b Entebbe centre that employs 427 staff, two-thirds of them Ugandans.
“We have addressed him (secretary-general Guterres) that the criteria used [in choosing the three locations] isn’t acceptable, but also that the UN should spread and equitably share out its functions across cities and member countries,” Mr Kutesa said.
The considerations for the preferred three locations, according to the May 1 report, included “full time zone coverage and proximity to clients; sufficient language capacity to serve global clients; and, co-location with existing UN system”.
In a state-of-the-nation address on the day the UN secretariat report was presented, President Kenyatta said “in the last year, Kenya has earned her designation as a United Nations service centre”.
“I single out for your attention two consequences: first and simply, it means jobs and training for a number of our young people; second, it brings the UN closer to Kenya and to Africa,” he said.
Ugandan diplomats have now put all options on the table.
“The final decision will be taken by member states when the report and recommendations are presented to the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly,” said Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s permanent representative to the UN.
The Fifth Committee, which considers the expert ACABQ committee’s recommendations, is responsible for administrative and budgetary matters and its decisions inform UN General Assembly’s budget approval.
Foreign Affairs Minister Kutesa said he will engage Kenya, which already hosts headquarters of key UN agencies, to surrender the regional service centre and if no consensus is reached, Uganda will have no option but force a UN General Assembly vote on the matter.