By Maureen Chigbo*
THE election of Ethiopia as a non-permanent member of the United Nations, UN, Security Council on June 28, places a huge burden on the country as it prepares to resume duty on January 1, 2017. Ethiopia will be representing a continent very much challenged not only in security matters but in providing for the economic, political, and social wellbeing of its more than one billion people.
Its election came at a time volatility still exists in Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia. It came when the security situation in the continent is still fragile. For instance, the security and humanitarian situation in the North East and Niger Delta regions of Nigeria is a source of worry. What, with the humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe States where Boko Haram insurgency has claimed about 20,000 lives since 2009. In fact, many people are dying due to starvation in the internally displaced persons camps.
Ethiopia, along with Egypt and Senegal, will be representing Africa as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council at a time the continent needs a strong representation at the Council to help ensure that “African solutions” are applied in solving civil strife in the region. This is important to prevent a repeat of what happened previously in Libya when the world did not listen to the voice of Africa before bombarding the country. This action disintegrated the Libyan society totally and led to the refugee and migration crisis where hundreds perished in the Mediterranean Sea in their bid to cross over to the greener pasture of Europe.
The election of Ethiopia is equally significant as it showed the acceptance of the sacrifices the country has made in ensuring peace around the world, especially in the horn of Africa. Ethiopia got elected without any known dissenting voice from East Africa region. It shows that it has earned the confidence of all the countries in the Horn of Africa which supported its bid for the non-permanent membership of the Council. This is unlike the experience Nigeria had when it bided for the post in 2010. At that time, although the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and African Union, AU, had endorsed Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia (members of ECOWAS) still went ahead to vote themselves during the secret ballot.
When it was discovered, their votes were nullified by Mr. Ban Ki Moon, UN secretary general, who spoke about it without knowing that the microphone was on. Nigeria still won. But their action shows their acrimony towards Nigeria, which had been elected four times to the Council. This happened despite the sacrifice of money and blood Nigeria shed to end the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Although Nigeria’s effort seems not appreciated, Ethiopia which has done pretty much the same in its region appears luckier. This obviously places the country of the Great Lakes in a better position to lead the peace process in some African countries which are now burdened by civil strife and other security challenges. South Sudan, especially, is hovering on a precipice.
Ethiopia like Nigeria has had rich experience in peace keeping operations. It is one of the highest contributors to continental and, by extension, global peace and security. Its citizens have been in the political and diplomatic missions in the Horn and across Africa.
Haile Mariam Desalegn, Ethiopian Prime Minister, is convinced that the country has contributed the highest number of personnel to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations in Africa. Its security forces are solely policing Abyei region, the contested borders between Sudan and South Sudan. Ethiopia currently contributes the largest female contingent either wearing, the UN Blue Helmet or serving under the auspices of the African Union; including several of them in senior command positions.
As a representative of all African countries, Ethiopia’s burden is to ensure that other members of the UN body see the need for applying African solutions in resolving conflicts in the region. No doubt, the leaders of Ethiopia have acknowledged the essence of this when its prime minister at the Tana Forum in April, said: “What ‘African solutions’ mean is two things principally. First, information about problems, causes and solutions ought to be primarily collected and analyzed by those who understand the African context. Collection and analysis of information is not necessarily an objective exercise. It is influenced by the particular frame of reference and embodied values of whoever is undertaking this exercise. In addition, intimate and deeper local knowledge is required for effective design of solutions.
“Second, the quality of delivering institutions is as important as the quality of the diagnosis and prognosis. ‘African institutions’ have to be the principal ones that should be entrusted with the responsibility to deliver.”
No doubt, the reforms in the UN have provided ample time for Ethiopia to prepare to cope with its burden as it takes a seat at the UN Security Council in January for its two-year tenure which ends in December 31, 2018.