[VIDEO] Dr Mukhisa Kituyi opens up on landing top United Nations job

Posted In Africa, Business, World - By admin on Sunday, June 16th, 2013 With No Comments »

Unknown to many, Kenya’s top official in the UN system, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, was initially never interviewed nor shortlisted for the plum position for which UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has appointed him to.

But how the brilliant political economy expert eventually turned the tables to become Secretary General of UNCTAD is just as intriguing. He shared his side of the story with Senior Political Writer OSCAR OBONYO in an exclusive interview in Nairobi, last week.

The chilly morning of January 29, 2012 found former President Kibaki in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, locked in intense consultation with his Cabinet ministers Moses Wetangula (Foreign Affairs) and Dalmas Otieno (Public Service).

The President, attending the African Union (AU) Heads of States’ Summit, had just secured an appointment with United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

He had summoned top Government officials in his entourage to brainstorm over the agenda for the bilateral talks with the UN boss.

Dr Mukhisa Kituyi

Dr Mukhisa Kituyi

Among other key issues, Wetangula suggested that Kibaki lobbies the candidature of Mukhisa Kituyifor the position of Head of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)– to Ban Ki Moon. At this point, one of the President’s top aides restlessly tried to whisper something to him. Typically, Kibaki parried him away, prompting the aide to scribble something on paper and slip it to him.

Upon reading it, the President took deep breath and turned wild with rage. He banged the table and confronted his officer. Kibaki even placed the “secret message” on the table for all to see. It stated, “We already have our own candidate for the position”.

“What do you mean by, ‘our own’? You mean your tribesman or village mate? Isn’t daktari (Dr Kituyi) our own? Has he not stood steadily with my Government since 2002 and is he not competent enough?” a senior Government official, who was present, recalls Kibaki protesting.

Despite the President’s reprimand, the anti-Kituyi schemers did not relent. They quietly pushed the candidature of an envoy based at a top strategic capital in the West, who missed out altogether. The connivance was a blessing in disguise for Dr Kituyi. Dual candidature may have failed, but exposure of his capacity to the top leadership in the UN was a gain for the future.

But how the brilliant trade and development expert eventually turned the tables to secure the plum UNCTAD job is an intriguing tale. Below are excerpts of the interview:

The Standard On Sunday: Let us begin with that great moment. How was the news relayed to you?

Dr Kituyi: The office of UN Deputy Secretary General (Jan Eliason) was the first to raise me on Friday May 10, with a short precise message – “Keep your phone on charge and available at exactly five minutes past 10pm – there is an important communication to pass to you.”

Did that ring a bell?

Certainly. I had gone through an interview before an international panel led by the Deputy Secretary General three weeks earlier. And I had been personally interviewed by the Secretary General the previous day. And at exactly 10:05pm the call came through from the Deputy Secretary General on behalf of the Secretary General congratulating me on my nomination as the new UNCTAD chief. But he advised that protocol demanded two things – that he first communicates officially to Kenya’s President (Uhuru), and later to the leaders of regional agencies of the UN. The nomination was later to be made to the General Assembly for confirmation.

Just how did you clinch the job that you were initially not even interviewed for?

I do not know. What I know is that in the wake of the initial shortlisting of applicants who had been interviewed, a leading group of eminent persons, including persons who have played a critical role in the evolution of UNCTAD, published an open letter to the Secretary General asking for the net to be cast wider. I was then encouraged to apply for consideration together with other interested candidates. The Executive Office of the Secretary General then constituted an international panel, which interviewed me for the job.

In 2005, you were equally a key candidate for another UN job at the World Trade Organisation. Why did you not pursue it?

At that time, I discussed the offer with President Kibaki, who prevailed upon me to remain in Government. He was of the opinion that his Government still needed my input at the global level as Trade Minister. I obliged.

And how has the Kenyatta Government received your current posting?

The Government has been very positive and supportive since my nomination and eventual confirmation. I thank it. I’m also grateful to Kenyans who, in their hundreds have personally sent me congratulatory messages. However, as a country we need to nurture and appreciate talent by offering the best from Kenya for serious UN and other international opportunities. We have never done well on this frontier. We tend to give undue emphasis to tribal and other parochial considerations.

How does it feel to be the Kenyan occupying the highest position within the United Nations system?

I am humbled by the opportunity of serving at the UN at this high level. I thank the Secretary General for entrusting me with this honour. I take this challenge with humility and hope to set good precedence for other Kenyans, East Africans and Africans in general to be appointed to senior positions within the UN system.

What do you look forward to in your new posting?

My job is well cut out for me, in accordance with the so-called Doha Mandate – a comprehensive work plan agreed at Doha in April last year, which sets out the agenda of UNCTAD for the next four years. In the meantime, I am engrossed with transition duties before I officially assume office in September.

Finally, owing to the latest development, there is a feeling among some people that you should consider offering yourself for the Presidency in future. Comment

Incidentally, most of those congratulating me end with a rider; that I should offer myself as the next President of Kenya. But in life, you take one challenge at a time and my immediate focus is on UNCTAD – to deliver on my mandate, build on the work done by my predecessor, and leave it a healthier place.

-The Standard

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