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The United Nations of Babel

By Owei Lakemfa

FELA Anikulapo-Kuti, the Afrobeat king asked the rhetorical question “Wetin unite for United Nations?” (What is united in United Nations?). This played out at the UN 70th Session where most world leaders were at war with themselves,

I ronically, the theme was “The Road ahead to peace, security and human rights.” But it would have been more appropriate were it the road to war.

What dominated the Session was not peace, the refugee crisis, food,jobs or human rights, it was war, particularly, the Syrian war. The world leaders traded blame particularly on the Islamic State (ISIS) but not on solutions.

The Session was a complete negation of the UN Charter adopted after the horrendous massacres of the Second World War which saw some 48,231,700 persons sent to early graves. The Charter states in the first sentence that the world body’s primary aim is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”

 Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon

An obviously frustrated King Abdullah II of Jordan argued that fundamentalism in the Middle East has led to the Third World War. Continuing in the hawkish tradition of France which saw Libya being bombed into a failed state, President Francois Hollande told the UN that the problem is Syria’S President Bashar al-Ass ad who must be taken out. He argued “You cannot put together victims and those who are killing them.” France is leading a renewed campaign to establish a so-called No-fly zone over Northern Syria and investigating alleged war crimes.

Britain which had helped establish, train and fund groups like ISIS and al-NUSRA, and is engaged in building ‘moderate forces in Syria, declared that it is willing to work with anybody to ‘free’ Syria from its elected president. Prime Minister David Cameron who was not physically ‘present, declared on Syria, “Of course we have to win militarily.” European Council President, Donald Tusk used the platform to condemn the Syrian government for allegedly using barrel bombs and chemical weapons in the civil war.

The two main actors at the Session, America’s Barack Obama, and Russia’s Vladirnir Putin had a 90-minute meeting while leading their various blocs of the world. Obama called a closed meeting in an attempt to build a coalition against ISIS. ‘America, according to its Secretary of State, John Kerry has slightly shifted from its position that Assad has no role to play in Syria; now, it agrees Assad stays for “a transitional period.”

But Putin argued that only the Assad and Kurdish forces are actually fighting ISIS and that seeking a solution without Assad is illusory. On the coalition assembled by Obama during the Session, Russian UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin argued that “The UN has its own anti-terror strategy and everything could easily be done within the UN framework … But Americans would not be Americans if they did not seek to demonstrate their leadership. It is simply disrespectful towards the organisation to conduct these things at the UN.”

For Australia, its Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop argued that no option should be off the table in tackling IS IS.

Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro was more direct on Syria ‘The war in Afghanistan, we have to ask ourselves about it. Did it bring peace? Did it build a situation of stability to the people of Afghanistan? No. The war in Iraq, woven in a fabric of lies, and the only idea behind that war was oil., Is Iraq living in peace? No. Rather it has been devastated … what was done in Ubya was a crime!” For Chinese President, Xi Jinping, it was a time to remember the millions of Chinese lost in World War II and a call that the strong sho ijtd not trample on the weak. Also on the Second World War remembrance train was Polish President, Andrzej Duda who accused the UN Permanent Members of misusing veto. While his reference to Russia was veiled, that of Japan was direct; both countries still have ‘territorial disputes over the Kuriles islands dating from that war. So officially, the Russo-Japanese conflict is not over. This may account for Japan’s eagerness to slam sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian conflict.

As expected, Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko raised his country’s self-afflicted wounds which had claimed over 8,000 in seventeen months. As usual, he was not introspective: “My country has been the object of external aggression. This time the aggressor is the Russian Federation.” But Brazil’s Dilma Rouseff was more motherly in her approach at the UN. Of course, she desires the Security Council expanded, but wants UN to take-urgent steps to prevent more suffering by migrants. She also wants an end to hostilities in the Palestine by granting Palestinians, their homeland. Italian President, Matteo Renzi was, not unexpectedly, concerned about the fate of refugees, many of who come through his country.

Of course, other countries have their demands, like South Korean President, Park Geun-hye using the platform td’ condemn his North Korean brothers and sisters and demanding action on their nuclear programme. Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani has similar concerns, but his own is against Israel. The worry of the Columbian President, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon is how to end the FARC insurgency that began in the 1960s. Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro shared a common platform asking the US Congress to lift sanctions on Cuba, but disagreeing on America vacating the Cuban Guantanamo Bay.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, spent the precious four minutes allotted him, to deliver a 30-paragraph address, with four paragraphs on the pressing issues of Boko Haram and Chibok girls, and seven on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; it was like carrying coal to Newcastle. His call for a Palestinian homeland, and independence for Western Sahara were however on target as they address some core issues of world conflict. As Head of State in 1984, his regime had recognised Wes~rn Sahara as a sovereign state; today, his administration would need to lead Africa in rescuing that country from Moroccan occupation.

The UN Session was a Babel, with everybody speaking and really, nobody listening. Humanity is rudderless; sheep, without Shepherd. We are on autopilot.


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