Never Again! ... Why Africa Can No Longer Believe in UN Neutrality

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Britain's deputy foreign secretary, Alistair Burt, said on 15 July that the Libyan leader, Muammar Al Gathafi, could have no role in talks about Libya's future as international leaders met in the ancient Turkish city of Istanbul to look for an end to what is turning out to be a long drawn-out war in Libya.

On the sidelines of the Istanbul meeting, Britain's foreign secretary William Hague and the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton met to discuss "more financial and diplomatic support for the Libyan rebels", And all this happening under the very eyes of the United Nations!

On 18 July, South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, welcoming the British prime minister, David Cameron, to Pretoria expressed African Union unhappiness at the way NATO has been using the UN-authorised no-fly zone in Libya to bomb everywhere else in the country, including Gathafi's compound.

In 1960, a newly elected Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, believing in the neutrality of the UN, invited the world body at the instigation of the then US ambassador to Congo, Clare H. Timberlake, to settle an intra-Congo political dispute. Lumumba ended up being consumed by the UN and its Western allies. A similar event has recently happened in Cote d'Ivoire, where President Laurent Gbagbo has similarly been consumed by the UN and its Western allies after he invited the UN to settle an intra-lvoirian political dispute.

This month we devote our cover story to the neutrality, or lack of it, of the United Nations. Following the recent UN authorisation of military intervention in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire, essentially to enable "rebels" to effect regime change in those countries, New African asked Akyaaba Addai-Sebo (inset), a pioneer peace envoy of the London-based NGO, International Alert, now an independent consultant on preventive diplomacy and the national interest, to write and contrast his field experience in the 1990s and early 2000s negotiating peace with "rebels" in war-torn West Africa, in the teeth of UN and Western opposition, with what is happening today.

At the time, the UN undersecretary general for political affairs, Dr James Jonah, bluntly told him: "You do not negotiate with rebels. You destroy them instead."

How can the same UN now turn round to "help" or "enable" rebels to effect regime change in Africa? What has changed? Can the continent continue to believe in the neutrality of the UN?

THE UNBRIDLED PURSUIT OF WESTERN SELF-interest in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire has the consequence of destroying the moral authority of the United Nations and its Security Council. In effect, the Security Council has become a quisling facilitating what is becoming an apparent "recolonisation" of some parts of the world strategic to Western interests. For global peace and security to prevail, the Security Council should be reconstituted to remove the veto rights and expand its membership to reflect the realities of our global village. The UN General Assembly as the constituent body should transfer executive powers into its own hands. A new ethically minded executive council of the General Assembly can then run the UN.

This is to free the UN from the Western stranglehold and make it really a collective voice and a responsibility of all. National self-interest must not be allowed to endanger global peace and security.

I never thought I would live to witness again the UN brazenly being used to directly support "rebels" in an intra-nation dispute. I thought that the experience of the Congo leading to the avoidable loss of the celebrated UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold and nationalist icon Patrice Lumumba would have been a lesson enough in the living memory of the Security Council.

The UN in the early 1960s allowed itself to be used as an instrument of Western policy to keep their stranglehold on the wealth of the Congo then under the suzerainty of Belgium. This was cruelly achieved at the expense of the then Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, and the UN secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold, who were brutally dismembered by agents of Belgium and a suspicious air crash respectively. …