05 Oct 2015

Africa Needs More Clout in UN Security Council

Written by  Adekeye Adebajo

No. 346: Africa Needs More Clout in UN Security Council / Adekeye Adebajo / Business Day
5 October 2015

As world leaders gather in New York for their annual diplomatic rituals at the United Nations (UN), many have echoed President Jacob Zuma's call for the urgent reform of the UN's 15-member Security Council: the most powerful body in the organisation that determines where peacekeeping missions are deployed. The council is the only UN organ whose decisions are binding on all 193 member states.

Today, 86% of the UN's 106,245 peace keepers are deployed in nine African countries (out of 16 missions worldwide).

The three African powers on the council — Nigeria, Angola and Chad — have co-ordinated much better than in the past, reporting regularly to the African Group of ambassadors in New York, and initiating a process of consulting with the 15-member African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa.

As chair of the UN Security Council in August, Nigeria held an open debate on the security role of regional organisations, which echoed the calls of the June 2015 High-Level Independent Panel of Peace Operations to strengthen relations between the UN and African regional bodies.

This report was strikingly unoriginal in going over ground already covered by earlier UN panels. A Joint UN/AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security is envisaged next year to ensure predictable funding, continued UN technical and planning expertise and a standardisation of the "rehatting" of AU to UN missions. Africa, however, continues to be marginalised in UN decision-making that is often dominated by France, the UK and the US, which draft all the resolutions in 14 out of 18 dossiers relating to Africa.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there have been continuing tensions in the relationship between the UN mission and the government of Joseph Kabila.

A South African-led 3,000-strong intervention force (with Tanzania and Malawi) continues to play an important role in seeking to stabilise the volatile eastern Congo.

Instability has also continued in Burundi following Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial election to a third presidential term three months ago. France is the "penholder" in both of these cases.

In Somalia, UN logistical support of a 22,000-strong AU mission, as well as the deployment of a civilian UN mission in Mogadishu, have helped to foster co-operation in the country in a case in which the UK is the penholder.

The UN's eight-year presence in Sudan's volatile Darfur region has not halted the killings. The US, France and the UK continue to criticise Khartoum's obstructionism, while China, Russia and Chad have been more sympathetic.

South Sudan's civil war continues despite several regional peace accords. The US penholder has sought to pressure the government in Juba by threatening military and travel sanctions.

The UN mission in Liberia has been deployed there for 12 years. Most worrying, Liberia's army and police are still not in a position to take over security in the country by July next year, even as the UN prepares to reduce its troops from 4,811 to 1,240. Washington is the penholder in this case.

In northern Mali, the UN's 11,000-strong mission continues to face challenges from rebel and Islamist forces. France holds the pen in this case.

Nigeria is the penholder for the 10,000-strong African force established to fight Boko Haram. Abuja pledged $100m to support the force, and has demonstrated some clout in this case.

Despite the presence of an 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, slaughter by militias has continued. French troops in the country reportedly sexually abused children amid allegations of a cover-up. Soldiers from Morocco, Chad and Equatorial Guinea have also been implicated. France is the penholder in yet another former colony.

Finally, Libya has been anarchic since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) intervention in 2011. In a case of the fox guarding the hen house, the UK — which led the Nato intervention — is the penholder on Libya.

The UN Security Council must be urgently reformed. Africa and Latin America are the only major regions without veto-wielding permanent membership, even as 60% of deliberations focus on Africa.

The council must be expanded to include countries such as Nigeria, SA, Brazil and India, whose membership is, however, contested by other regional powers.

Adebajo is executive director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution and a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg

This article was also published in the Rand Daily Mail on 6 October 2015.

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