The UN's offices in Geneva. Picture: FABRICO COFFRINI / AFP
The UN's offices in Geneva. Picture: FABRICO COFFRINI / AFP

New York — Kenya was elected  at a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on Thursday for 2021-2022, defeating Djibouti after first-round voting by the General Assembly failed to choose between the two candidates.

Kenya obtained 129 votes, against 113 in the first round on Tuesday, and Djibouti 62 against 78 in the first round, in the race to take the Africa seat.

Of the 193 members of the UN, 191 registered a valid ballot. A two-thirds majority, or 128 votes, was required to win.

Kenya will replace SA in January. In recent years Africa has chosen a single candidate for the seat but continental ties have been strained.

Kenya had the support of the AU, though Djibouti had said it had priority under the principle of rotation as Kenya had sat on the Security Council more times.

The Security Council has 10 non-permanent members in addition to the veto-wielding big five — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

On Wednesday  the General Assembly elected India, Mexico, Norway and Ireland as non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Canada was beaten once again for one of the Western seats, by Ireland and Norway, despite a long and star-studded campaign, a result likely to be a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India — which has been trying unsuccessfully to win a permanent seat in an expanded Security Council — ran unopposed to win 184 votes out of the 192 countries that participated in the election.

The result means that India will now have a seat at the same table as China, just days after the two nations disputed their Himalayan border, trading blame for a brawl that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Mexico, which also ran unopposed, earned 187 votes.

In the run-up to the  vote French-speaking Djibouti and English-speaking Kenya highlighting their roles in seeking peace on the Horn of Africa, as well as their contributions to UN peacekeeping options.

Kenya  pointed to its welcome to refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, as well as to its support to the two countries' fragile governments.

Djibouti noted its strategic location and unusual role as a defence base for diverse countries — France, the US, China and Japan — as well as its contributions in Somalia.

Fearing fraud or manipulation, the General Assembly did not vote electronically, even though the UN is mostly operating virtually until the end of July due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, each of the 193 delegations cast a secret ballot at a designated time during voting in the Assembly Hall.

The General Assembly also elected Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir as its president for the 2020-2021 session on Wednesday.

Bozkir was the only candidate running, but Armenia, Cyprus and Greece — all of which have historically tense relations with Turkey — opposed him, meaning he could not be elected by consensus and nations had to cast votes.