Museveni: It is ‘obvious’ Africa deserves permanent seat at UN

President Yoweri Museveni.

Photo credit: PPU

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday asked African countries not to accept anything less in the UN Security Council reforms, until the continent is granted at least two permanent seats.

And speaking to a group of foreign ministers from across the continent, the Ugandan leader said Africa, like other developing regions of the world, is not asking for favours when demanding adequate representation. He said it was “obvious” that reforms will make the global body inclusive.

He spoke as ministers from 10 African countries charged with pushing for Africa’s demands for reforms concluded a meeting in Kampala on Thursday with a call not to relent.

“The UN Security Council should have been and must be reformed. This is not [a] favour by anybody but a right of all peoples that inhabit the planet earth,” he told the audience in Kampala.

The ministers are from Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Congo-Brazzaville, Libya and Namibia, and are designated by the African Union as C-10 or the Committee of 10.

These countries, collectively under the chairmanship of Sierra Leone, have been collecting views from member states and other stakeholders around the world since 2015 in a bid to influence changes within the Council.

The desire to make changes to the Council, the UN’s most powerful organ, has been agitated by Africa and other regions for nearly two decades. The continent argues that the Council, with five permanent members selected at inception and 10 non-permanent members, is detached from reality.

When the UN was formed in 1945, the five countries that are now permanent members of the Council either had strong economies, emerged victorious after WWII or had a huge population. They are the US, the UK, China, Russia and France.

Today, though, the economy of Germany, for example, is bigger than those of France and the UK, and the developing world, which was still colonised at the time, has attained freedom and independence.

“Was the assumption that we would never be free? If that was the assumption, then the assumers were wrong,” Museveni told the ministers.

“It is, therefore, a circus to waste time, year after year, debating the obvious. We demand our right of having permanent seats, not the seasonal ones allotted to us by the present unfair system, on the UN Security Council.”

Most of the demands for reforms have previously met a dead end, mostly because the Council itself has to endorse any changes to its structure, including an approval vote by all the five permanent members.

The ministers gathering in Kampala under the ninth ministerial-level meeting of heads of state and government were to discuss an African declaration called the Ezulwini Consensus, named after the famed valley in Eswatini, where African Union members declared a joint call to pursue reforms at the Council, including having at least two permanent members from the continent.

Earlier on Wednesday, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem said it was an injustice for Africa not to have permanent seats on the Council. He said that is a result of a divided continent.

“By strengthening ourselves here in Africa, the outsiders will more easily accept not to interfere with our rights,” he said.

“We must be in that Security Council to ensure that it is not used negatively against Africa and that it is, instead, used positively for Africa and the rest of the world.

Despite lacking a permanent seat, Africa accuses the Council of passing most resolutions against it, while looking the other way when a permanent member makes a unilateral decision.

Museveni suggested that the murder of the founding prime minister of DRC, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961, plotted by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the attack on Libya by Nato forces in 2011 should have been stopped by the Council, but it didn’t.

In Libya, Nato began bombardments after a UN resolution that had been voted for by all African members on the Council at the time: Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon, after it proposed to protect civilians by all means including imposing a no-fly zone in Libya.

“Who is answerable for these two mistakes?” he posed, referring to the continual conflicts in the two countries. The answer, he proposed, is for Africa to have two members with powers to veto Council decisions.

And it should be up to the African Union itself to determine how to select them, maybe through a rotational vote, of say, four years each and based on regions.

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