UN Seat: 2 Options Open to Africa - Annan
From Kingsley Nwezeh and Iyefu Adoba in Abuja, 01.31.2005
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday in Abuja said African leaders would decide on which of two options to adopt as the panel on the reforms of the UN has recommended two permanent security council seats for the continent.
He also expressed confidence in his position as the UN Secretary General following moves to implicate him in the food for oil scandal in Iraq.
Addressing a press conference yesterday after the opening ceremony of the Fourth Ordinary Session of the African Union, Annan said the membership of the security council is to be expanded from 15 to 24 seats with six new permanent positions proffered in option A as contained in the recommendations of the UN reform panel.
According to him, two out of the six new permanent seats will go to Africa under Option A.
The other option, he said, is the creation of additional semi-permanent member seats.
"Option B will also create additional semi permanent seats. They will be elected for four years instead of the current two years. You will have those elected for four years and those elected for two years. African governments who are here are now discussing which option to support and once they have decided on that option they will decide on which countries they agree to put forward for the permanent seats. It is an issue that is being discussed and it is for them to decide. I am neutral on this matter;" he said.
On the threat to his position as UN Secretary General, Annan dismissed such threats and noted that he had "an important assignment to carry out and there are reforms on the table and I relate well with 191 member states of the UN and I am carrying on my work without any fear or hesitation."
Responding to a question on debt cancellation, the UN scribe said "the Millennium Project Report recommends that if we are going to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we need increased overseas development assistance and it is going to require debt relief or debt reduction. Some governments are already working on this. UK Councillor Gordon Brown indicated that his government is prepared to pay off or reduce a certain percentage of the debt owed by African countries and there are discussions with other governments that are likely to do the same."
On the situation in Sudan, he expressed concern over the continued violence in the country and said the UN had received a sensitive report of the international commission set up to look into the crisis with a view to looking into the recommendations.
He said the issue of sanctions on Sudan was being considered by the security council but this had not been passed following the lack of consensus among members. He however said the matter is still on the table.
He commended the AU for taking the lead in finding a lasting solution to the crisis by leading negotiations on peace agreements and by monitoring the situation on the ground.
"I am very worried about the situation in Dafur and I am now studying the report of the international commission which I received late last week, I have also given a copy of the report to the Government of Sudan as is customary to sensitive reports such as this one I will transmit the report to the security council shortly. I am sure the council will give most serious consideration to its recommendations. We cannot allow further violence against innocent civilians in that context.
"In those efforts the AU should expect the strongest possible co-operation from the UN and the entire international community.
"As I said I have just received the report of Dafur and we are in the process of analyzing it. I am not able to go into details but regardless of how a commission describes what is going on in Dafur, there is no doubt that serious crimes have been committed, serious violations of humanitarian laws and gross violations of human rights have taken place and this cannot be allowed to continue and action will have to be taken."
"AU is pursuing a noble and bold mission in Darfur. There are already 1,000 AU troops deployed to Dafur. It is in the lead and by February will deploy another 3,500 troops. AU troops are making an important contribution and difference. The international community is making generous contributions and as far as Sudan is concerned the Union is doing well. The UN will deploy peace keeping operations to the South and once on ground will work with AU," he said.
President Olusegun Obasanjo in his capacity as AU Chairman charged member states to work together in resolving the numerous problems afflicting the continent.
Conflicts, threat of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other infectious diseases and food security, he said, still deserve the utmost attention of African countries.
In apparent reference to the move to secure permanent seats at the UN security council, he urged African leaders to take a common position.
"We need to review our implementation strategy in order to properly determine where we stand. We must continue on the path of sustainable economic and political reforms. We must address in a more determined manner the issue of conflicts on our continent. Let us not jeopardize the future of our children. Let us work harder with unity and development of democracy. I know that we can do it and we must give ourselves the task to build Africa for the better" Obasanjo said.
Earlier in his speech, Chairman of the AU Commission, Omar Konare called for the unity of African nations. He said the continent should work towards the emergence of a "rainbow nation." He added that if African problems are not addressed, there can be no development.
"We do not have to rely on others to come and solve our problems, we can solve our problems ourselves" he said. He also commended Obasanjo's drive to attract assistance for the victims of the Tsunami disaster.
Representative of the Arab League also called for the greater unity of the AU and continued working relationship with the Arab League. He also called for efforts leading to permanent resolution of the Middle East crisis.
African Leaders present at the summit include President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Omar El-Bashir of Sudan as well as Mohammed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone. Others include Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Yayah Jammeh of the Gambia, Abdulaye Wade, Senegal; Mwayi Kibaki,Kenya among others.