ADDIS ABABA (IDN) - Africa’s veteran, though highly controversial leader, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has reiterated the call for reforms of the UN Security Council saying the continent should have the same powers as the five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
In his opening address to the 26th African Union (AU) Summit on January 30-31 – as outgoing chairperson of the bloc – he repeated the African leaders’ demand who have been pushing for the continent to have at least two permanent seats in the Security Council, with equal veto power.
While five countries are permanent members of the Security Council, Africa and the other non-aligned member states from Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean do not have any permanent seat. Attempts since 2005, when the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan undertook the initiative, to launch formal negotiations on expanding the Council have failed.
The guiding theme of the Summit in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, was ‘African year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of Women’. But considering that about 29% of the member nations of the United Nations are the AU states, Mugabe availed of his opening address to reiterate the call
Mugabe, who turns 92 on February 21, said: “The bosses of the Security Council say you shall never have the powers that we have as permanent members, and we asked, and asked. Reform! Reform the security council!”
Turning to the incumbent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mugabe said: “Tell them, tell them we are not ghosts, that we also belong to the world … part of the world called Africa, and Africans shall no longer tolerate a position of slavery, slavery by any other name. By denial of rights, slavery by being treated in a manner we regard as not equal to the manner in which they treat themselves.”
Mugabe warned of a mass exodus of African countries from the UN if Africa’s demands went unheeded. “If we decide as we shall certainly do so one of these days, that down with the United Nations, we are not members of it, others are real members of it, we are artificial members of it, and we, we can’t continue to be artificial members of it,” said Mugabe.
“If the United Nations is to survive, we must be equal members of it. Equal members, members … who can say when we go to the body, that we can now, speaking truly as members with a voice that is understood, respected and honoured. “
Zimbabwe’s President, who was interrupted often with loud applause and at times standing ovation from the member countries, went a step further and called into question the very location of the UN headquarters in New York and said that the world body should have its seat where the majority of its members are – in Africa and Asia.
“Where do you have most of the people?” Mugabe asked, after pointing out that more than three billion just in China, India and Africa, alone. “Now put us together, just us three, and then put those with the white faces and pink noses, put them together against us. How many are there, even man to a man? And do we allow that that group should continue harassing us, even in our independent countries?”
In his remarks, Mugabe stressed that unity is key to help overcome social, political and economic challenges blighting the African continent. "We must speak with one voice as we chart a new chapter on our journey to become self-reliant and free from emerging threats like terrorism, dangerous epidemics and conflicts," he said.
The two-day summit discussed a range of topics including human rights, women empowerment, financing of the continental body, terrorism and conflicts. African leaders and senior policymakers also discussed progress achieved in the implementation of development projects identified in the Agenda 2063.
Mugabe said despite the threat of terrorism and a slump in the commodities market, Africa's socio-economic transformation remained on course thanks to domestic reforms and an improved political climate.
"Several AU member states in 2015 conducted fair, transparent and peaceful elections while the outlook for this year is bright. Africa has come of age despite recurrent threats to our common future," Mugabe declared.
African countries are united in their quest to eradicate terrorism that currently poses a mortal threat to the continent's stability and development, he said, and regretted that violent extremism has reached crisis levels in the horn of Africa, the Sahel and northern African region hence the need for concerted efforts to stamp it out.
"Terrorism is a major scourge in Africa that negatively impacts on our quest for peace, security of our people, development and integration," he noted, adding that creation of an African Standby force with deployable capability will embolden the war against terrorism.
African governments have prioritized the war against poverty, unemployment, discrimination and environmental degradation in line with the Agenda 2063 aspirations.
"We have endorsed an African resource mobilization strategy to help accelerate economic growth and tackle youth unemployment. There is a consensus on the need to tackle challenges like migration and climate change as a united bloc," said Mugabe, adding that strategic cooperation with emerging economies like China and India will advance economic growth, peace and security in Africa.
UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to promote tolerance, human rights and inclusive development in order to sustain peace and long-term growth. "We must resolutely invest in good governance, women empowerment and human rights as a prerequisite to achieve peace, security and development," Ban said.
He stressed the unity of African states was crucial to help address the menace of terrorism, poverty, disease and forced migration. "Africa should provide a shining example on potential of unity and tolerance to help tackle challenges facing humanity. The unity you demonstrated during the Ebola crisis was inspiring," Ban remarked.
According to AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, African countries will dedicate greater efforts to the advancement of human rights alongside speedy implementation of projects identified in the Agenda 2063 so as to hasten their socio-economic transformation.
"We must continue to place our people and their basic human rights at the centre of Agenda 2063. This includes our people's rights to education, nutrition, health, safe water, sanitation and energy," she said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 January 2016]
Photo: Ordinary session of the African Union | Credit: AU