Would UN Chief Ban Ki-moon Act Against African Dictators During his 2nd Term? By Kidane Alemayehu
Mr. Ban Ki-moon has just been appointed for his second term as Secretary General of the United Nations. How did he perform with regard to the most vexing issues confronting Africa: lack of democracy, and poverty?
It was highly gratifying to note that soon after his first appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, unlike his predecessors, including Mr. Kofi Anan, was showing a keen interest in African issues right at the outset of his tenure. Aside from his relatively frequent visits to the region, his focus on complex issues such as the cases of Darfur, the Eritrean/Ethiopian border, the on-going conflict in Southern Somalia, etc. he was seen taking on the challenge of the devastating malaria pandemic which is known to be responsible for the perennial death of substantial numbers of African people. He had definitely deserved to be commended for his initial efforts in giving some attention to the beleaguered continent which continued to be afflicted by huge issues of poverty, diseases and lack of democracy. Therefore, this author had penned an article entitled: “Would UN Chief Mr. Ban Ki-moon Ban Dictatorship from Africa?” expressing his optimism and pointing out the main issues and recommendations that needed the Secretary General’s attention based on the important principle that the United Nations could play an effective role in bringing about democracy and an accelerated development in the African continent.
After all, despite all its shortcomings, real or perceived, the United Nations remains one of the very last hopes for humanity.
At the beginning of his second term as UN Secretary General, it is now time to review the points raised in my previous article and determine whether Mr. Ban Ki-moon has fared any better than his predecessors. Based on the UN performance during the last few years, the simple truth is that he has not. Unfortunately, the various views presented in my earlier piece remain valid and have to be reiterated hereunder to a large extent. African dictators continue to get away with their gross abuse of human rights as well as the perpetration of a grinding poverty despite the huge resources with which the continent is fully endowed. The UN as well as the regional organization, the African Union, have virtually become clubs of vicious dictators.
The question remains as to whether Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s priorities are appropriate? The more apt challenge for Mr. Ban Ki-moon is, still, whether he has the moral courage and fortitude to address the real fundamental issues facing the millions of Africans who are languishing under abject poverty not because of lack of resources but mainly due to lack of democracy and the consequent poor governance. It still remains to be seen whether he would meet that challenge head on or, like his smart predecessors, continue to hide behind the mantle of “the UN mandate”! Judging from the very positive start of his onerous assignment, I would still hope, despite criticisms I faced by those who considered my optimism as being overly gullible, that Mr. Ban Ki-moon would, during his second term as UN Secretary General, side with the masses of poor Africans suffering under their twin enemies of poverty and vicious dictatorships some of which, at times, masquerade as “democratic” entities performing occasional fake or rigged elections. The UN is fully aware of this travesty but deliberately turns a blind eye!
Despite the fact that his job is made difficult by superpowers who tend to emphasize his being a Secretary than being a General, there is no doubt that the UN Secretary General does have the opportunity to bring to focus issues of substance that affect humanity in a significant manner. This is particularly true especially when comparing the United Nations organization with such other entities as the African Union which is an almost totally toothless bulldog that demonstrates a zero sensitivity or impact when it is confronted repeatedly by gross human rights abuses right under its very nose. Recent examples of election riggings throughout Africa (with the exception of extremely few such as those in Botswana and Ghana) have not evoked even a peep from the African Union which is supposed to be there to look after the interests of the people of Africa and NOT those of the vicious dictators! The fat leaders of the African Union are, in most cases, parading in their limousines and their a la mode fashions while Africa is burning from tyrannical regimes bent on corruption, gross abuse of human rights, and their virtual disregard of the devastating diseases such as malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS afflicting millions of African people. Most African leaders are not ashamed of the fact that the continent has become a basket case while it is endowed with god-given riches (resources) that could make it a bread basket for itself and the world if only it had a democratic system of governance that would give priority to the interests of the African people and not the corrupt few.
Among the black man’s burdens (to turn a phrase) that Mr. Ban Ki-moon has to bear in the context of “the UN mandate” is the fact that corrupt dictatorships in Africa are often supported by self-serving developed, and less developed countries such as China for their immediate interests. The Secretary-General’s dilemma is evident in that he has to bear in mind that it is mostly the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which is his virtual boss, that are siding with the dictators at the expense of the suffering African people. Nevertheless, it is still hoped that Mr. Ban Ki-moon would also recognize the fact that it is incumbent upon him, as the leader in charge of enhancing respect for human rights globally, to play an effective role in bringing about a change in the international community’s complicity with corruption and tyranny. He is one of the very few leaders on earth who could and should tweak the conscience of the international community regarding the tragic plight of the African people suffering under the most oppressive regimes.
USA has a declared policy to promote democracy throughout the world. In one of his inaugural addresses, President Bush had stated: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty we will stand with you.” President Obama as well as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have both voiced, in the strongest possible terms, their condemnation of tyranny and corruption in Africa. What remains to be done is to match words with action. It is in USA’s long-term interests to adopt a more potent policy of siding with the people instead of their oppressors. As the sole superpower in the world today, USA’s clear support to the UN Secretary-General in the quest for democracy in the developing world would, more than anything else, accelerate economic development ending the grinding poverty and consequent diseases that cause millions of deaths in Africa. One of the beneficiaries of such a sound policy would be USA itself from expanded trade and the prevalence of stability.
A point is often made to the effect that it is only Africans who can liberate themselves from their oppressors and that expecting the accomplices of their tyrants, in this case the international community including the UN, is an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, it remains the strong opinion of this writer that the United Nations could and should play an effective role in bringing about a fundamental change in policy towards tackling one of the world’s most serious challenges, namely, the unbridled dictatorships that are the bane of so much suffering for millions of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In any case, what chance do poor Africans have when their oppressive regimes are armed and supported by the international community?
Given the constraints under which Mr. Ban Ki-moon is operating, what could he, as a person of conscience, do, in his capacity as the head of the United Nations organization, to alleviate the untold suffering of the African people?
1. He must face the truth: that Africa’s primary problem is not lack of resources; its main problem is lack of democracy without which, the international community may continue to pump in billions of dollars into Africa but would have little to virtually no positive effect except to meet certain natural and man-made emergencies and enrich the corrupt few.
2. There is an urgent need for the Secretary-General to use his considerable moral and political influence to bear upon the gross abuse of human rights and corruption in Africa in a manner that would yield practical results unlike his predecessors, who satisfied themselves with merely hollow expressions of double-talk that were scoffed at by African dictators. It is interesting to note here that Mr. Kofi Anan was more effective after the end of his service with the UN with his masterful performance in Kenya than all the years he wasted as Secretary-General without making a dent in the vicious grip of dictators in his own continent!
3. There is no doubt that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is aware of the numerous ways and methods by which he could influence events in Africa. What, above all, is needed as a matter of great urgency is to formulate and apply an effective strategy for the creation in Africa of an environment in which dictatorship and abuse of human rights would not be tolerated and that there would be a heavy price to pay by tyrants and corrupt governments. Tyrants should be given a clear notice to make way for democracy!
4. It would be most important for the Secretary General to be personally engaged in the quest for democracy in Africa to the extent that it would constitute one of his top priorities and eventually become his unique legacy as a huge contribution to humanity during his tenure. Such a courageous policy would not endear him with the dictators and their bosses elsewhere but it would be worth the fight unless he prefers to be an accomplice in the continued subjugation of the African people under a brutal suppression and abject poverty.
5. The Secretary-General should be wary of the fact that some of his top advisors could be bureaucrats honed in perpetuating a continued debilitating impact on the United Nations and that their advice regarding Africa is likely to side more with the corrupt dictators in that continent on the basis of the so-called UN mandate than taking new initiatives that would liberate the Africans from the vicious grip of poverty and untold tyranny.
6. Another extremely important aspect that Mr. Ban Ki-moon will have to consider carefully is that the powers that be in the international community are interested in Africa more for the purpose of exploiting its immense natural resources as well as their other latent motives such as the so-called “war against international terrorism” than the alleviation of dictatorship and poverty: the very factors that breed terrorism in that sad continent.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s initial focus on Africa at the beginning of his assignment as UN Secretary General deserved appreciation. However, that effort was not sustained with a result that he did not have even the minimum impact on the tyranny and poverty afflicting most African people. There is, therefore, a continuing urgent need for a clear cut UN strategy for the continent, focusing on its immense challenges as well as opportunities. It would, in particular, be interesting to see whether Mr. Ban Ki-moon will, during his just commenced second term as UN Secretary General, exert the necessary effort in ridding the African continent of the gross human rights abuses and its rampant poverty emanating from the vicious dictatorships from which millions of African people are suffering.
It is hoped that the international community, especially USA and EU will, in their own long-term interests, side with the UN Secretary-General’s efforts at alleviating the grinding poverty and dictatorship in Africa instead of supporting oppressive regimes for myopic interests.
It is hoped that under the leadership of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations will, for once, help in bringing a real democracy in Africa resulting in the efficient utilization of its immense natural resources for the benefit of its people.