Magazine article UN Chronicle

Joseph Nanven Garba: A Soldier-Diplomat at the Helm

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Joseph Nanven Garba: A Soldier-Diplomat at the Helm

Article excerpt

A soldier turned diplomat is in command of the forty-fourth General Assembly. The unanimous election to the Assembly Presidency of Joseph Nanven Garba, a former Nigerian major-general and an experienced diplomat, author of two books on African politics, signals the arrival of a generation that has come of age with the United Nations. The new Assembly President was only two years old in 1945 when the Organization was born. As a 22-year-old infantry captain, he served with the UN peace-keeping force in India and Pakistan. There he had first-hand experience of what the Organization can do to keep the peace.

"I think some of the happiest moments were when we were able to stop the shooting, the bombing and so on, and got the commanders from both sides into the no man's land, to brew and drink gallons and gallons of tea and to shake hands", he recently said.

Open and articulate, Mr. Garba was a leader of the 1975 "democratic coup"-as he describes it-that returned Nigeria to civilian rule. His book, Diplomatic Soldiering is a vivid account of those days and of his four years as Nigeria's Foreign Minister from 1975 to 1978.

Having received his military training in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, he became one of his country's youngest infantry officers. He began to write after retiring from the army in 1980: his other published book is Revolution in Nigeria-Another View (1981). He also went back to school.

First, he spent a year in India's National Defence College, then he went to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., United States. He holds a master's degree in public administration from Harvard.

A familiar figure

Tall and often garbed in colourful national dress, Mr. Garba has been a familiar figure at the UN since 1984, when he was appointed Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the Organization. Since then he has also served as Chairman of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the Special Committee on Peace-Keeping Operations.

He is currently writing a third book-on the role of the military in African development.

Mr. Garba told the newly-gathered Assembly on 19 September that an atmosphere of trust was emerging where before existed a climate of fear and suspicion. But all of that must be "further developed and sustained", he said.

Certain areas of darkness persisted. "In South Africa, there has been much rhetoric, but the only evidence of change has been the faces, not the policies, of apartheid"

Political progress had not gone hand in hand with economic improvements. "Peace is not secure unless it is founded on, or accompanied by, economic justice", President Garba said. The debt crisis, for example, had deep economic and political, as well as social, consequences.

Affirming peace

After quoting Martin Luther King We must concentrate not merely on the eradication of war, but on the affirmation of peace. . "-Mr. Garba reviewed recent progress in the field of disarmament.

Afghanistan, Central America, Cyprus, the Persian Gulf and Western Sahara were mentioned as places where super-Power rapprochement and the consequent relaxation of tensions "have encouraged and enabled our Organization to serve the cause of peace with varying degrees of success". …

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