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Africans have been clamouring for the reform of the United Nations’ most powerful organ, the Security Council, to accord a permanent seat to the continent, which will give the motherland veto powers on important decisions. Currently, the Security Council’s veto powers are controlled by the world’s most powerful and famous nations, including Russia, the United States of America, Great Britain, France and Germany. Ironically, most of the decisions taken by these mighty from the West and Asia affect Africa in one way or the other. Currently, the Africans rely on a rotating nonpermanent seat without veto powers. Perhaps to bring the world closer to reality, the power of the Security Council decisions which do not have in-depth African consultancy can easily be felt if one relives the brutal killing of Libya’s military president Muamar Gadhafi a few years ago. The UN Security Council was ratified by the victorious nations from World War II on October 24, 1945. These included China, the U.S.S.R. (now Russia), France, the United Kingdom and the United States — who ratified the UN Charter, thereby creating the Security Council and establishing themselves as its five permanent members with the unique ability to veto resolutions. Originally, there were six temporary members, rotating every two years and distributed on an equitable geographic basis. That rule was refined in 1965 when the number of temporary members was increased to 10 (five from Africa and Asia, one from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America and the Caribbean, and two from Western Europe). The first temporary members were Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, The Netherlands and Poland. The Charter also established the purpose of the Council, to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security”, and to act accordingly by: • Investigating any situation threatening international peace; • Recommending procedures for the peaceful resolution of a dispute; • Calling upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and • Enforcing its decisions militarily, if necessary. On January 17, 1946, the Security Council met for the first time in London. The first UN peacekeeping mission was deployed in 1948 to the Middle East; and there have been 60 more. Over the last 60 years, the Security Council has taken action to defuse innumerable international crises, the most recent of which included those in North Korea, Iran and Lebanon. There have been frequent calls to reform the membership of the UN Security Council, most of which include accepting Japan, Germany, India and Brazil (known as the G4) as permanent members. Japan and Germany are the second and thirdlargest contributors to the UN budget, respectively. In addition to the proposal to make the G4 permanent members of the Security Council, there have been several other proposals floated by various groups and individual countries, none of which have met with a positive response from the Security Council. Speaking with one voice Last week saw some African leaders converging in Namibia to engage on a consultative forum meant to shape the best way for the continent to have veto power and a permanent seat in the Security Council. Ideally, about 10 Heads of State and Governments were expected to converge in Windhoek, but that did not happen. The attendance saw four Heads of State engaging, while the other countries were represented by highpowered delegations steered by Ministers of Foreign Affairs. It did not take long to see Namibian President Dr Hage Geingob expressing his disappointment over the poor attendance for reasons not given. Geingob believes the attendance does not represent what Africans would like to portray to the world that Africa is singing from the same hymn book, and would benefit from a veto power at the Security Council. Perhaps the President was right; there ought to be a more united vocal code from the continent if their agitations are to be taken seriously and implemented by the world. While it is very visible that there are marked differences in the thinking of African leaders on different aspects, this is an issue which is better for the continent to let sleeping dogs sleep and focus on the issue at hand. Ideally, if there was no discord in the way the Africans view certain delicate issues, the continent would not be ravaged by some petty wars and political upheavals which have displaced millions of the continent’s inhabitants from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere in Europe or within the continent. Perhaps, African leaders ought to understand exactly what they aim to achieve before they engage the world, and exactly what they need to do in the Security Council, and likewise agree on who should take the lead. Judging from the poor attendance from the last consultative meeting, one will be right to be tempted to think that there is no correlation and concurrence on what is more important for the world. In fact, even on important issues like ceasing war, the leaders of the continent always have a wait-and-see approach. This explains exactly why the president of Burundi can make empty threats that the deployment of an African Union force meant to protect citizens from the violence is a threat to his country’s integrity, and the bulk of the leaders on the continent cannot raise their heads and save ordinary Burundians. Learning from the past Perhaps the most important aspect is that Africans need to ascertain what their purpose is in the Security Council, judging from past mistakes. In the past, South Africa voted in support of a resolution which saw the former Libyan president being toppled from power, and that was somewhat questionable. Perhaps the continent’s leaders need to zoom into the reasons why they would want to have such an engagement, and also assess its benefits for the continent before going forward with it. The continent does not need to go back into making past regrettable mistakes, but rather focus on unity of purpose.