Will Africa push Security Council issue?

The world will be watching whether Africa will table its position at the General Assembly session which begins this week, or will wait for a special session of the General Assembly scheduled for next March.

The African Union has been haggling over the past year on the reform of the UN Security Council.

Outgoing UN secretary general Kofi Annan, himself an African of Ghanaian origin, has proposed widespread reforms of the world body, including the reform of the powerful Security Council. Observers say Africa should have taken advantage of the fact that Annan is from the continent, and should therefore be sympathetic to Africa’s cause, to push for its position.

African is pushing for meaningful and wide-ranging reforms as opposed to cosmetic changes which would perpetuate the continent’s current position on the fringes of decision-making.

The continent wants the UN Security Council expanded to 26 seats, with six new permanent veto-wielding seats, two of which would be reserved for Africa, and five new non-permanent seats, two of which would also go to Africa.

Africa does not wish for the veto, but should demand it if other permanent members retain it. African leaders have adhered to this position at AU summits and extraordinary summits at Sirte, Libya, in July 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (August and November 2005) and Khartoum, Sudan (January 2006).

The issue was supposed to have been debated and exhausted at the AU Summit in Banjul, Gambia, in July this year, but it did not feature prominently as the High Level Committee of 10 heads of states and government set up at the Sirte summit had not yet finished preparing its report and did therefore not report its findings to the summit.

The committee of 10 is chaired by Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and comprises leaders (or their representatives) of Senegal (Sierra Leone and Senegal represent West Africa), Libya and Algeria from North Africa, Kenya and Uganda from East Africa, Zambia and Namibia from Southern Africa, and Equatorial Guinea and Congo Republic from Central Africa.

The committee’s mandate was to sell Africa’s position to the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

But there are fears that the committee has not done enough as African leaders join other world leaders to debate world affairs, including pressing issues on the continent, in New York this week.

There are also fears that African leaders might not go to the General Assembly with a united voice.

Already there are signs that some countries want to get into the Security Council at whatever cost, with or without the backing of the rest of the continent and with or without the veto.

Other leaders are of the view that Africa’s position should be tabled and debated at the General Assembly without any further delay and even without seeking support from the current permanent members. They argue that Africa risks losing out if it delays tabling its position at the General Assembly.

However, others are of the view that the resolution on Africa’s position should not be tabled in haste because if it fails, then the continent’s position would have been weakened.

Yet others argue that Africa must not negotiate for the two permanent seats with veto power and two non-permanent seats on an expanded Security Council, but must demand this as a right.

Africa, they argue, has suffered enough under slavery, colonialism, apartheid and the time has now come for the injustices to be atoned for through granting the continent its demands on the Security Council.

But despite all this, some African countries were said to be backtracking ahead of the General Assembly meeting and have endorsed a proposal by Brazil, Germany, Japan and India ‘ the so-called Group of Four ‘ to have six new permanent seats without veto power. These would be one each for the Group of Four and two for Africa, plus four other non-permanent seats.

For Africa, that would mean two permanent seats, one non-permanent seat and sharing another non-permanent seat with other developing regions.

Supposing the resolution on Africa’s position is adopted, the next battle will be on who will represent the continent in the expanded Security Council. South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Kenya, Libya, Algeria and Congo Republic are some of the countries that have been named as contenders for the Security Council seats reserved for Africa.

The front runners were thought to be South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. But questions have arisen as to whether Nigeria will be able to represent the continent’s interests in view of the way it handled the Charles Taylor issue. Others are of the view that Egypt is more inclined to the Middle East and the Arab world than to Africa.

For now, it remains to be seen whether the continent’s resolution will be tabled at the General Assembly which begins this week, and whether this will prevail.

September 2006
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