UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kenya defeated Djibouti on Thursday for an African seat on the U.N. Security Council in a second round of voting held under dramatically different procedures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first round of voting on Wednesday, neither country received the required two-thirds majority in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. In Thursday’s second round, where a two-thirds majority of 128 votes was required, Kenya received 129 votes and Djibouti received 62 votes.
Kenya, which was endorsed by the African Union, will now join Norway, Ireland, India and Mexico, which were elected Wednesday as non-permanent members of the Security Council for two-year terms starting Jan.1.
In previous years, ambassadors from all U.N. member states had gathered in its vast General Assembly chamber to vote by secret ballot, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world body to adopt new rules. To avoid a large gathering and ensure social distancing, ambassadors wearing masks were given time slots for voting and spread out in the chamber to mark their ballots.
The 15-member Security Council has five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 elected members with seats allocated to regional groups and five new members elected every year.
Because of the council’s mandate to ensure international peace and security and its powers including authorizing war and imposing sanctions, winning a seat is considered a pinnacle of achievement for many countries.
It gives them a strong voice on issues of international peace and security ranging from conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Africa and Ukraine to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran, and attacks by extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
The number of women on the council will double from two currently — U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Rhonda King — to four when Norway’s Mona Juul and Ireland’s Geraldine Byrne Nason join in January.