Little-Known Kenyan Lawyer Nominated for Top UN Job

  • Undated Photo of United Nations Office at the Geneva
    Undated Photo of United Nations Office at the Geneva
    DW
  • A Kenyan lawyer, who is not so much known in the country, has been nominated for a top United Nations position.

    Lawyer Phoebe Okowa is the Kenyan candidate set to compete with other candidates drawn from all over the globe for the International Law Commission seat. She is also pushing to become the first African woman to sit in the United Nations body.

    Okowa, who also doubles up as a Professor of public international law at Queen Mary University in London, is seeking to join the body that has 34 members and is tasked with drafting, researching, and expanding international law for the UN.

    Prof Phoebe Okowa During Court Session in the United Kingdom in 2019
    Prof Phoebe Okowa During Court Session in the United Kingdom in 2019
    Legal.org UK

    The whole country has placed its hopes on Okowa. She has also received backing from the United Kingdom. To prove how good and suited she is, the African Union has also joined to endorse her candidacy.

    Prior to that, Okowa served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and had been drafted to be part of the legal team for Kenya in the maritime case against Somalia at the International Court of Justice.

    She is also an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She lectures international law for the United Nations. She has also published a number of academic articles and books.

    “I am thrilled to learn that today, my candidacy for the UN ILC has been endorsed by the African Union,” she stated after receiving the endorsement.

    Okowa is the only female candidate from Africa. In a nomination pitch, Kenya noted that her election will signal “an important step towards making the equality ideal in the Charter of the United Nations a manifest reality”.

    She wooed the United Nations by stating that she will push to have the best decisions aligning with the law.

    “My work will be informed by my dual experience as an academic and a practitioner of international law, which gives me a strong grasp of both the technical and the practical elements."

    Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Martin Kimani, supporting her bid maintained that her qualifications rank her above the rest of the candidates.

    “An inspiring woman and an acclaimed international legal scholar, her qualities and qualifications as outlined below speak for themselves,” Kimani stated.

    “We believe that the quality of institutions ultimately depends on selecting really good people and wish to lead by example in nominating an exceptionally well qualified female candidate to this important body.”

    The position was created in 1947. The members chosen to take up the role are picked among candidates of UN member states and they serve for five years once elected by a majority of votes through a secret ballot.

    The next election for the team that starts its term in January 2023 is due next month at the UN General Assembly.

    Undated Photo of Prof Phoebe Okoya in Profile of UK University Legal Department
    Undated Photo of Prof Phoebe Okoya in Profile of UK University Legal Department
    Legal.org UK