Nigeria elected into UN Security Council

Nigeria was yesterday elected, along with Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council for 2010-2011. Africa was allotted two seats that went to Nigeria and Gabon. Nigeria was elected with 186 votes, along with Gabon, which received 184 votes.

The Security Council is the most important UN decision-making body, with its five permanent members being Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Each of the five permanent members has veto power over its decisions. It is tasked with maintaining international peace and security.

The newly elected  five non-permanent members will take their seats on the 15-member council on January 1, replacing Costa Rica, Libya, Uganda, Vietnam and Croatia who will complete their two-year mandate on December 31.

In the Latin America and Caribbean group, Brazil — which already has served nine terms on the council, most recently from 2004-2005, was the only candidate. Brazil was elected with 182 of the 190 votes cast, with seven abstentions, Ali Triki, the president of the 192-member General Assembly, said.

Nigeria, Africa’s oil giant and the continent’s most populous nation previously served three terms, most recently in 1994-1995, while Gabon has never served.
One seat was at stake in the Asia group, which Lebanon won with 180 votes.

In the Eastern Europe group, Bosnia, which has never served, was elected to the seat that will be left vacant by Croatia with 183 votes. Citing his country’s painful war experience from 1992 to 1995, Bosnian Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj said, “we are going to be a strong voice for preventive diplomacy.”

He highlighted the fact that Bosnia was endorsed by the full 23-member Eastern Europe group.

“Although we will act in our national capacity, we are going to be a part of a broader consensus that is growing in our neighborhood, where all the countries share the same desire of peaceful and prosperous life,” Alkalaj said.

The Security Council’s 10 non-permanent seats are filled by the General Assembly, with five countries elected each year to two-year non-renewable mandates. To secure a seat, a candidate nation has to win two-thirds of votes cast in a secret ballot.

Unlike most previous Security Council elections, there were no contested seats this year. As a result, the five countries nominated by regional groups won easy election on the first ballot in voting by the 192-member General Assembly.

Assembly President Ali Treki announced the results _ 186 votes for Nigeria, 184 for Gabon, 183 for Bosnia, 182 for Brazil and 180 for Lebanon _ and declared the five countries elected to terms beginning Jan. 1, 2010 as diplomats burst into applause.

“It’s going to be an even stronger Security Council, I think, next year,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said after the vote. “We have two large countries in Brazil and Nigeria who carry the weight of being a regional power. We have two countries in Lebanon and Bosnia that have been through conflict and can bring their own national experiences to the Security Council.”

Ten of the council’s 15 seats are filled by regional groups for two-year stretches, and five non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly every year. To win, candidates must get a two-thirds majority of the assembly members voting by secret ballot.

The five other Security Council seats are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent members: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Bosnia has never served on the council and Lebanon has not been a member since 1953-54.

After the break-up of former Yugoslavia, Bosnia was ravaged by Europe’s worst fighting since World War II, with 260,000 people killed and 1.8 million displaced. A NATO-led force deployed in late 1995 to enforce the peace agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio that ended the conflict was replaced in December 2005 by a new European Union peacekeeping force, whose mandate is renewed every year by the Security Council.

While security has improved in Bosnia, ethnic tensions between the country’s Muslims, Croats and Serbs remain high. Revamping the country’s constitution to form a single government with one president _ instead of two mini-states joined in a weak federal system _ is considered essential if Bosnia is to fulfill its ambition of joining the European Union, but Bosnian Serbs are blocking any constitutional change that diminishes their power.

Lebanon has also been on the Security Council agenda for decades _ with a U.N. peacekeeping force deployed in the south near the Israeli border since 1978 and a U.N.-backed tribunal mulling possible indictments in the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

The political situation in Lebanon is also fragile, with the Western-backed majority in parliament and Hezbollah and its allies still deadlocked on forming a new unity government following June 7 elections.

In the past, countries that are on the Security Council’s agenda have abstained on some issues because of conflicts of interest. Diplomats said this could happen with Kosovo in the case of Bosnia and with Iran in the case of Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s close ties to Tehran.

Gabon is not on the council agenda but it also has political problems. Its Aug. 30 election results giving victory to Ali Bongo, the son of the country’s longtime dictator, have been disputed by opposition candidates who accuse Bongo of fraud.

Gabon was last on the Security Council in 1998-99, Nigeria in 1994-95 and Brazil in 2004-05.

The five countries newly elected council members will replace Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam on Jan. 1, 2010. The five countries elected last year _ Austria, Mexico, Japan, Turkey and Uganda _ will remain on the council until Jan. 1, 2011.