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UN elections : Celebrating vanity

By Owei Lakemfa

NIGERIA was “elected” into the 15- member United Nations (UN) Security Council last Friday and there was a big jubilation in government circles. It was hailed as proof of the country’s growing international status, thanks to President Umaru Yar’Adua’s outstanding leadership qualities.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, located our election partly in our peace-keeping roles. Communications and Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili declared the election as an endorsement by the international community of the President’s leadership qualities.

Contrary to these outlandish claims, the “election” into the non-permanent seat of the Security Council as being celebrated by the uninformed or the mischievous, is based on a distribution formula in which blocs liked Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Arab world present representatives who are usually endorsed by the UN General Assembly. To ensure its inclusiveness, the blocs rotate representation amongst their members.

For instance, Nigeria was elected a member in 1966/67 at the height of its coups and counter-coups which led to the civil war. It was again its turn 11 years later, not minding the fact that the General Olusegun Obasanjo dictatorship was in place.

Even when the murderous General Sani Abacha regime was in power, Nigeria was still awarded an African seat in the Council in 1994/95. Today, 14 years later, it is again our turn to be one of the two African representatives on the Council. So what is the big deal?

Of the five countries newly elected, only Brazil is of high international stature, being a strong economy and member of G20, a strong democracy with a credible and representative leadership and a strong presence in the UN. Gabon , is a backward country ruled by an uninspiring dynasty of the highly corrupt, whose elections, like that of Nigeria are rigged.

Bosnia is still recuperating from the brutal civil and international wars that gave birth to it. Lebanon is in a worse state; its endless civil wars and those with a brutal Israeli state has made it almost a failed state; a state that can neither maintain internal security nor protect its borders against  neighbours like Israel and Syria.

So rather than adding strength to the Council, Nigeria, Gabon, Bosnia and Lebanon will be drawing strength from it and would hope that their membership would enhance their countries wellbeing.

There is also the added comedy by the Nigerian government whose propagandists are celebrating that of the five new countries added to the Council, Nigeria had the highest vote score. Statistically this appears correct. Of the 192 countries voting, Nigeria had 186 votes, Gabon 184, Bosnia 183, Brazil 182 and Lebanon 180. But this type of celebration portrays us as illiterates; there is no advantage whatsoever in the number of votes and it does not show that Nigeria or Gabon have more support in the UN than say Brazil.

The seats were not being contested for; they are by allocation and representation. So the votes are a formality. All that is required is that each country nominated, gets the endorsement of at least two thirds of the General Council; that is, a minimum 128 countries. So celebrating “highest number of votes” is a fluke. It is a pathetic public relations stunt that reveals a system bereft of ideas.

All these are not to reduce the importance of the Security Council as a body that has powers to settle international disputes, establish and supervise UN peace-keeping troops, enforce measures, recommend the appointment of the Secretary General and appoint  judges of the International Court of Justice.
In other words, the Security Council exercises the UN’s executive, legislative and judicial powers! But that is  not the primary danger. What is most dangerous is the fact that the 10  non-permanent members are just there to give the rest of the world a false sense of belonging.

Real power is in the hands of the five permanent members: US, Britain, France, China and Russia, who can each veto any UN resolution no matter the thinking of the rest of humanity.

The UN was founded in 1945 after the Second World War when most of the world was under colonialism. As part of the war booty, the five victorious countries that emerged out of the war constituted themselves into an exclusive club of permanent members who first met as the UN Security Council on January 17, 1946  at Church House, London. They rule the world as they please and use the veto weapon quite liberally. The USSR/ Russia has used the veto 123 times, the US 82 times, Britain 32 times, France 18 times and China 6 times. In the last 25 years, the US used the veto 43 times, Britain 10 times, USSR/Russia four times, China and France three times each.

The misuse of power led to UN backing the wars of blame in  Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan amongst other places. Powerful  countries, against the rest of humanity, for years defended the apartheid system  and has allowed Morocco to continue the colonisation of its neighbour, the Sahrawi  Arab Democratic Republic. The UN was quick to come to the military defence of oil rich- Kuwait in  1991 while abandoning resource-poor Rwanda in 1994, an act that led to the massacre of over 850,000  human beings.

Brazil, India, Japan and Germany (G4) launched a campaign to make themselves, an African country and an Arab one, permanent members. Nigeria supports this, hoping to pick the African slot unaware that South Africa and Egypt have far better prospects.

What the world needs is not the retention of the undemocratic and stifling status quo as Nigeria  and the G4 wants, but a democratisation of the UN and the Security Council.


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