Magazine article UN Chronicle

Of Conflict, and Post-Conflict, Situations; Fourth Committee: Special Political and Decolonization. (GA 57 Session)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Of Conflict, and Post-Conflict, Situations; Fourth Committee: Special Political and Decolonization. (GA 57 Session)

Article excerpt

"Draw your own conclusions", remarked the representative of Zambia in the Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization) Committee, Brigadier General John N. Musonda.

"During the cold war, there was one UN peacekeeping mission to Africa", he said. "After the cold war, we have had more than fifteen. During the cold war, the Western or Eastern powers ensured stability in certain countries for their interests to be served. But at the end of the cold war, once their interests had been served and there was nothing else to do, they left. You find those dictators who relied on these powers were left to themselves; 'the centre did not hold and things fell apart'," he said, paraphrasing Chinua Achebe's great but sad novel that draws its title from W. B. Yeats' poem "The Second Coming".

In a talk with the UN Chronicle, Brig. Gen. Musonda said that for African States to participate more in UN peacekeeping operations, they had

to overcome key problems of training and equipment for logistical support--a fact agreed on by European and African diplomats who also spoke to the Chronicle.

Earlier, Committee Chairman Graham Maitland of South Africa said that an "important development" in the Fourth Committee in this session focused on enhancing the peacekeeping ability of "war-ravaged" African nations. "It has been an issue on the agenda for the last few years without much progress", he said. "But this year we have seen some important developments."

According to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, 21 African countries contribute 10,191 troops, or 23 per cent of the 43,007 troops currently deployed in peacekeeping missions around the world. Contributions range between four soldiers by Cote d'lvoire and 3,340 by Nigeria. Nevertheless, the question remains as to why it is necessary to enhance the capability of African States in peacekeeping operations.

"Most of the conflicts in the world are in Africa, so what would be more relevant?" asked Kurt Mosgaard of Denmark, who spoke in the Committee on behalf of the European Union. "All countries can benefit from an enhanced African presence in peacekeeping missions", he told the Chronicle. "It's not that easy ... one should talk to present UN mission commanders on the ground. Training is the most important component. There can be bilateral assistance as well, for things like transport, equiment, logistics, etc."

Malick Thierno Sow of Senegal, who also spoke for the African nations, told the Chronicle that troops needed training. "Training centres should be established in the West, East, North and Central regions of Africa", he said. "Some already exist. Countries should also be given resources to be able to participate. Sometimes they are invited and cannot go because they don't have enough funds."

Even as the debate on the peacekeeping capability of African nations was considered important, involvement of the United Nations in nurturing the rule of law in transitional States caused concern to some developing countries, Mr. Maitland said. "It's a complex issue", he added. "As parties to a conflict make peace ... there must be assistance. The UN is grappling with how to enhance its capacity to make an effective intervention." East Timor and Kosovo were "exceptional cases", but going beyond transitional administration was seen as a problem. He said that the Brahimi report on peace operations also mentioned this concern.

The debate on a comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations in the Committee also resulted in a recommendation to proclaim 29 May as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The date marks the establishment in 1948 of the first UN peacekeeping operation--the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the Middle East.

Besides a review of UN peace-keeping operations, three of the fourteen subjects General Assembly President Jan Kavan allocated to the Committee underlined the interests of peoples in non-self-governing or non-sovereign territories. …

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