Africa: UN – ‘Obama’s Open to Security Council Reform’

Constance Ikokwu 

Washington, D.C. — The United States has said it may be open to a United Nations reform that provides a seat for the over 50 African countries that lack permanent representation at the Security Council, although it was yet to take a decision on that matter.

It also commended the tremendous contributions of Nigeria and the African Union (AU) to peace keeping missions in the most volatile parts of the continent.

In a question and answer session at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organisation Affairs, Mr. James B. Warlick, said the clamour for a permanent African seat at the Security Council was a legitimate concern.

“The US is in favour of reform that ensures effectiveness and reflects the realities of the times”, he added.

The call for reform in the UN has grown louder since the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

However, while the US reform is targeted at transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of the world body, African countries have stepped up pressure to have the exclusive club of five big nations at the Security Council enlarged in order to give them a voice.

China, US, Russia, the United Kingdom (UK) and France are currently the permanent members of the Council.

“We’ve not taken a position on whether Africa should have a permanent seat or not. We haven’t taken many decisions regarding Security Council in this administration. But Africa needs to have a voice in the Security Council, there’s no question about that.

“The Security Council needs to be a legitimate voice for all member states and certainly for a group of 54 African countries. The AU has been very vocal that they want permanent and non-permanent seats and taken a very firm decision in insisting on that. At the end of the day, I don’t know where the African group will come out. They are appealing for greater representation,” he said.

He said the US did not want a world body that is a mere “talk shop” bugged down by bureaucracy that undermine the effectiveness of the council. But it will support the modernisation of the Security Council to reflect the realities of the 21st century.

Warlick noted with delight the contributions made by Nigerian troops across Africa. “UN peace-keeping”, he said, “would be handicapped without the presence of troops from the AU in the most difficult and dangerous areas”.

He cited the instance of Darfur in Sudan, where President Omar Al Bashir who was recently indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity and refused to allow non-African troops into his country.

“In Sudan, without African peace keepers including Nigeria in Darfur there would not have been peace-keeping. We have relied on Nigerian and African peace-keepers.

The AU has demonstrated its commitment to international peace keeping particularly a firm responsibility in Africa”, he said.