Former Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi officially assumes office of the plum job of Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) today in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dr Kituyi flew out of the country yesterday to Geneva, where he will be based for the next four years. The four-year term renewable job is the highest ranked position within the UN system to be occupied by a Kenyan or individual from the East and Central African region.
Talking to The Standard On Sunday on Thursday, the elated politician promised to set good precedence for other Kenyans, East Africans and Africans in general “in order that they can find opportunities to serve or win senior positions within the UN system.”
The former Kimilili MP beat many applicants across the globe to win the UN top job. Kituyi was not initially shortlisted, but he got a second chance after a group of eminent persons including persons who have played a critical role in the evolution of UNCTAD published an open letter to the UN Secretary General asking for the net to be cast wider.
Dr Kituyi’s formal appointment by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and subsequent endorsement by UN General Assembly in June was greeted with a lot of excitement, including President Uhuru Kenyatta who sent to him a congratulatory message.
There has since been a lull and yesterday Kituyi quietly left the country to Geneva, but when he next returns to the country it will be a highly publicised affair.
And except for a send-off party last Thursday at Nairobi’s Sankara Hotel, organised by his former development partners and a host of NGOs, there was no high-profile send-off of the former Cabinet minister by Government or political leaders.
Until his appointment, he was consulting for various Government agencies across Africa, including the African Union. After servicing as Trade minister in the former President Kibaki Government, Kituyi vied for political office in 2007 as Kimilili MP and this year as Bungoma County Senator, without success.
His reign as Kenya’s Trade minister catapulted him to prominence globally and most likely to the current plum UN job. During this tenure, he separately chaired the Comesa Council of Ministers and the African Trade Ministers’ Council, for two years.
Kituyi chaired the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, and was the lead negotiator for Eastern and Southern African ministers in the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations.
He was also the convenor of the agricultural negotiations at the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting of the WTO Doha Round. During all these assignments, Kituyi emerged as an avid defender of the African position and developing countries across the world – a factor that endeared him to many in the diplomatic circles.
The new position now thrusts Kituyi into a fairly influential position within the UN system. It is a development that also places the politician a pedestal above the rest – particularly rivals from his Bungoma County backyard, like former Ford-Kenya leader Musikari Kombo, with whom he has been engaged in perennial political dog-fights.
But his level now places him beyond regional politics. If he has to engage in politics, he may perhaps wish to do so at national level — perhaps even vie for the presidency.
By OSCAR OBONYO, The Standard
Mukhisa Kituyi takes office at UN trade agency