Mugabe demands UN seats for Africa

Zimbabwe’s president calls for reform of Security Council to give the continent permanent representation.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe president, speaks at UN General Assembly
Mugabe said that Western nation blocking changes to the UN Security Council were ‘hypocrites’ [Reuters]

Zimbabwe’s president has demanded that Africa get permanent representation on the United Nations Security Council.

Robert Mugabe told the UN General Assembly on Friday that the continent should be given two permanent seats, which bring the power of veto over resolutions, on the body.   

“It is completely unacceptable that Africa remains the only continent without permanent representation in the council. That historical injustice must be corrected,” he said.

“We therefore urge member states, including those that have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, to give due and fair consideration to Africa’s legitimate demand for two permanent seats, with full powers of veto, plus two additional non-permanent seats.

“Africa’s plea for justice cannot continue to be ignored. We all have an obligation to make the council more representative, more democratic and more accountable.”

Calls for reform

The Security Council currently has just five permanent members – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia. Ten other members are elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly, with five replaced every year.  

“This time [Mugabe] is actually articulating a consensus position from [Zimbabwe’s] government of national unity”

Knox Chitiyo,
Zimbabwe researcher

The non-permanent members are chosen by regional groups before being confirmed by the assembly.

The African bloc chooses three members; the Latin America and the Caribbean, Asian, and Western European and Others blocs choose two members each; and the Eastern European bloc chooses one member. One delegate from an “Arab country” is chosen alternately from the Asian or African bloc.

Other nations – including Japan, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo – have also used the UN General Assembly gathering this week to call for reform of the Security Council.

“No one continent should have an exclusive monopoly over membership of the Security Council. There is no justification for a discriminatory allocation of seats, nor can we debate and endlessly ignore the realities of our rapidly changing global circumstances,” Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone’s president, said on Thursday.

Mugabe condemned Western nations on the Security Council as “hypocrites” for wanting to maintain the status quo.

“Why are the developed Western countries, especially those permanent members with the veto, resisting the democratisation of the United Nations organs, especially the Security Council?

“Aren’t they the ones who talk glibly about democracy in regard to our developing countries. Or are they sanctimonious hypocrites whose actions contradict their sermons to us.”

Financial sanctions

Mugabe has come under fire from Western nations over his actions at home. The European Union and the US have imposed financial sanctions on the president and dozens of associates for nearly a decade since a violent re-election campaign.

Mugabe called for an end to sanctions on Zimbabwe in his speech on Friday.

“The people of Zimbabwe should, like every other sovereign state, be left to freely chart their own destiny,” he said.

Knox Chitiyo, a Zimbabwean researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said that Mugabe’s comments were different from the fiery rhetoric of previous speeches.

“This time he is actually articulating a consensus position from [Zimbabwe’s] government of national unity,” Chitiyo told Al Jazeera.

“Previously it was easy for people to dismiss him, saying ‘this is just Mugabe politicking and he is representing Zanu-PF’.”

Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing pact with Morgan Tsvangirai, now the prime minister, more than a year ago after a crisis over a 2008 national election that local and foreign observers say was marred by violence and vote-rigging.

“They have come to the UN as a coalition government. The issue around sanctions is a coalition position as well as the position of Sadc and the African Union

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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