UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The Final Call was blessed to have a few minutes with a delegate from Africa. We enjoyed Expresso in the Delegate’s Lounge and talked of what was coming in 2004 on the continent.
African nations such as Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Algeria, Mali and Angola are in the forefront to promote African solutions to Africa’s problems and development of effective African institutions, according to our friend who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
“Western Africa is tight, they are working well together, and so is much of the south under South Africa,” the delegate said.
He said reports that talks started again in the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, were also a welcome piece of news. After 15 months of fighting, a national unity government had been formed, but for the past three months, there was a boycott of the ministerial meetings by some of the rebel groups.
The week starting Monday, January 5 was a quiet one at the United Nations headquarters in New York. In the corridors of the UN, delegates congratulated the Pakistani delegation for their successful initiative with India. Arab delegates were elated at the news of talks between Iran and Egypt, and Syria with Turkey. And our delegate friend assured me that there was much to be joyful about in Africa.
“We have arrived at a time when we can sit down and talk to each other,” our delegate friend stressed, pointing to the Sudan. On January 7, the Sudanese government and negotiators from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army announced that they had resolved the key issue of how to share the nation’s wealth, particularly oil resources. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan predicted the two sides could reach a final peace agreement by months end. “They are making very, very good progress,” Mr. Annan said of the negotiations being held in Kenya.
“Forget what you read in this media here, we are solving our problems in Africa. There are those who are taking the leadership, and there are improvements. Burundi comes to mind, and starting on January 9, for 10 days in Nairobi, Kenya, Somalians will meet with Eritrean leadership to solve their problems,” our delegate friend said. “The word is that there will be an agreement after the 10 days,” he said.
African leadership is seeking to develop democracy across the continent, but perhaps most important are their efforts to develop economics that are pan-African, said Jim Harris of the Global Policy Forum, a New York-based group that monitors UN policy. He said that does not mean that Africa does not need development assistance from the West. “Africa does not need offers of free trade and more foreign ownership,” Mr. Harris said.
Africa needs control of its resources, Mr. Harris stressed. “It needs an adequate supply of electrical power, and it needs control of its water resources,” Mr. Harris added. “African nations probably need to explore the option of being a single trading bloc.”
Our delegate friend agrees that there is a political change in Africa, which is reflected in Africa’s leadership. “We inherited dictatorships backed by colonial powers, and first we had to bring justice to the people before we could tackle global problems,” he said. “Now, we want to see change in institutions such as the UN Security Council, which does not reflect the reality of the world today, there is a lack of geographical equity in the 15-member council.”
He added that Africans see the UN as a place to demonstrate to the world that Africans can provide leadership in these troubled times. Observers say there is strong support for each of the non-European regions–Africa, Asia and Latin America–having a permanent seat on the Security Council. Former U.S. ambassador to the UN, William Luers said “the new environment of terrorism makes the UN ripe for change.” Now president of the private United Nations Association of the United States, Mr. Luers says there also seems to be agreement that Germany and Japan, in terms of their economic power, rate permanent council seats.
Mr. Annan has appointed a high-level panel to look at the thorny issues of UN reform. According to UN sources, the panel hopes to have a report ready by summer.
Meanwhile, Algeria and Benin have replaced Guinea and Cameroon on the Security Council; so, along with Angola, Africa continues to have a voice in world affairs. “We will continue to play a role, but we are going to push for a stronger voice,” our delegate friend reminded me.