African Union (AU) chairman Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, South Africa President Jacob Zuma and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn appeared to be reading from a well-rehearsed script when they accused the UN of discriminating against the continent, five decades after a majority of its nations gained independence.
They particularly aimed their salvos at the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which they described as an “exclusive club”, who hold sway in the decisions that the world body of nations makes, including the election of the secretary-general.
The five members, also known as the “Big Five” are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, China and France.
Mr Mugabe fired the first brickbat at the UN when he said African countries had not gone to the General Assembly “looking for handouts”.
Instead, he said, they had a well thought-out agenda of seeking partners to develop their mega infrastructure projects, exploit their natural resources and attract investments.
He warned that the world would only benefit from an Africa that has been set free and recognised and not one that had been muzzled by the powerful countries sitting on the UN Security Council.
“While the world has drastically changed since 1945 (the year when the UN was established), the United Nations has been stuck, driven along by the archaic systems which threaten to alienate (a) majority of its membership,” he said.
He stated that AU members were rightfully pushing for reforms to get a seat on the Security Council and called on other member states to support the African campaign.
Mr Mugabe also said that AU members want the selection of the UN secretary-general to be conducted by the General Assembly and not as a rubber stamp of the Security Council.
“Nowhere does the UN charter say that the members who sit on the Security Council must sit in judgment of others,” he said.
Mr Zuma questioned the failure by the UN to reform since it was established, arguing that African countries liberated themselves from colonial rule and must be involved in the top organ of the world’s intergovernmental organisation.
NO LONGER COLONIES
“The UN cannot pretend that the world has not changed since 1945. We are no longer colonies. We are free, independent and sovereign states,” he said as he addressed the General Assembly.
He questioned the rationale of Europe having three countries as permanent members of the Security Council yet Africa had none.
The three are Russia, the United Kingdom and France. Germany is also pushing for a slot, dangling its economic strength.
“It is unacceptable, unjustifiable that more than one billion people in Africa are still excluded as permanent members,” he said as he demanded that the UN secretary-general be elected by the General Assembly of Heads of States and Governments.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who accused the UN of perpetuating inequality, challenged the world body to seek to unite countries and not subdivide them.
“The UN should not be part of the problem (for Africa) but a solution,” he said.
Mr Desalegn demanded full reforms of the UN, warning that without the changes it will be impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted on Friday.
There is a need to reform then United Nations and without these reforms, it will not be easier to deliver the next set of development goals.
The General Assembly had opened in the morning, with US President Barack Obama calling on nations of the world to unite to end terrorism, embrace peace and develop the world through trade and investment.
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