Heads of states and governments in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe have over the years called for the reform of the 6th main organ of the United Nations – the powerful 15-member United National Security Council - which compromises five permanent members, namely USA, Britain, China, Russia and France, and 10 non-permanent members who are rotated every two years.
Contention over the makeup of the Security Council lies in the veto power held by the five permanent member countries, that essentially overrides any decision by the non-permanent members.
While some observers say a lot is happening behind the scenes to make this a reality, the question many ask is why it has taken so long. This was part of the frustration raised by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during his address to the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA), Monday, in New York. President Mugabe said Africa had a common position on this issue.
“We are disappointed that we have lost the opportunity of this [70th] anniversary to address this burning issue, of the reform of the United Nations Security Council,” said President Mugabe, “in a manner that justifies the just demands and expectations of the majority among us.”
Africa Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also attended the UNGA, expressed dismay at the lack of movement to push for the transformation of the Security Council, saying it’s at a standstill.
“I am not happy because it’s going nowhere. There is no pace at all, especially the Security Council reform,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Echoing the position stated by many African nations, Dlamini-Zuma said the makeup of the council reflects a bygone era that no longer exists.
“So I hope as we celebrate 70 years, countries will take a firmer stand to say this situation, is a situation that was addressing issues after the world war and many countries were not there, and we cannot continue with it.”
Contrary to the belief, however, that not much is moving in terms of transforming the Security Council, former UNGA President Sam Kutesa of Uganda, some headway has been made in attaining inclusion of some developing nations into this powerful body which plays a crucial role in the world in issues related to peace, war and other matters.
“What we’ve done this year, and I think it's just a small step forward, but an extremely necessary and important step, is to have a text on which negotiations will be based," said Kutesa, who is also Uganda’s Foreign Minister.
Kutesa noted that “for Africa, it is out of these negotiations, because negotiations refer to numbers, the members of the Security Council, its relationship with the General Assembly, and the management of the entire peace and security architecture."
Kutesa further said there’s no determining what would come out of the negotiations, but the result would be a giant step for the continent, no matter how small.
“So whether it will be two seats or one seat, it will come out of these negotiations.”
Central Committee member Joseph Tshuma of the ruling Zanu-PF party, who is also the legislator for the Bulawayo constituency of Pelandaba-Mpopoma, applauded President Mugabe for bringing the issue of the reform of the Security Council to the forefront.
“Our president has always been on record to be the voice of the voiceless,” Tshuma said. “The president's call is in line, is on course, and we say thumbs up to him once again.”
Taking the rare position of agreeing with President Mugabe on any issue, spokesperson Obert Gutu of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said he supports the idea of a reformed UN Security Council.
However, Gutu said, President Mugabe should equally push for equality and justice for all, starting in his own country. He described President Mugabe’s government as a “renege regime” that does not put its people first, and cited the case of missing activist Itai Dzamara who disappeared more than six months ago, and remains at large.
“Charity begins at home,” said Gutu. “Before [President] Robert Mugabe talks about UN Security Council reform, he should tell us, where is Itai Dzamara.”
Dzamara is the leader of Occupy Africa Unity Square, which has been campaigning for the resignation of President Mugabe they accuse of failing to properly run the country.
He was abducted by uknown assailants and the Zimbabwe courts have ordered police and other security agents to look to him.
Until reform of the United Nations Security Council is achieved, nations aspiring to be part of the coveted UN entity, will for now have to contend with the 10-non-permanent rotating positions that also make up the Security Council, from where their voices too can be heard on important decisions.
Three African countries currently on the non-permanent rotation are Angola, Chad and Nigeria.