Africa and the Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council

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MID-WEEK ESSAY: Africa and the Permanent Membership of the
UN Security Council


Mobolaji E. Aluko

February 3, 2005


It appears for all intents and purposes that two permanent veto-wielding seats
will soon be open to Africa in the UN Security Council, and the question then
will be how to fill them. It is only fair to let African countries themselve
decide which those two seats will be.

The discussion about expansion of permanent membership of UN Security Council is
however unusual with respect to Africa in that unlike all the Council’s other
members, the consideration is based on CONTINENTAL REPRESENTATION rather than on
the individual
economic or military strength of the countries to be considered.

Frankly, I am GENUINELY concerned that the fight for permanent membership can
lead to bad blood between the leading African candidates – Egypt, Nigeria and
South Africa – with many of the other countries choosing sides for many reasons
that may not be very salutary. If we are not careful, it may be a pyrrhic
victory whichever two emerge.

It need not be, and Solomonic wisdom is demanded to break a deadlock before it
even rears its ugly head.


We could decide to list each country by population, and choose the top two. We
could decide to list each country by GDP, or GDP per capita, and choose the top
two. We could decide for straight-run election among all 54 countries, complete
with campaigns and pompons, and choose the two highest vote-catching candidates.
If there are ties, we could go a second round and third round, etc…..

And so on….

Those suggestions will be too mechanical and are fraught with danger.

However, if we save ourselves some trouble by thinking regionally, then the two
regions that quickly jump to mind are Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern (or Arab
or even Muslim) Africa.

In the list of three leading candidates outlined above, Nigeria and South Africa
belong to the Sub-Saharan category of Africa, while ONLY Egypt belongs to
Northern Africa, a position of primacy so far uncontested by countries in that
region like Algeria, Libya, Morocco, etc. I stand to be corrected.


So I wish to make a suggestion that Africa should decide, under the following

1. Two Permanent Veto-Wielding Members:

(i) Egypt
(ii) Nigeria and South Africa – but rotated between them in 5-year periods,
starting with Nigeria.

It may be stipulated within the AU that neither Nigeria or South Africa will
apply a VETO unless the other country agrees. That does not prevent each country
from voting DIFFERENTLY from how each other would have voted in non-veto

2. Six Non-Veto-Wielding Members:

(i) 5 non-permanent members, each rotated from within North, East, South,
Central and West Africa
(ii) a sixth rotating permanent member, either South Africa or Nigeria,
depending on which of them is NOT a member of the Permanent Veto-Wielding Group
at a given time.

What the above suggestion means is that Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria will
ALWAYS be three of the eight members of the UN Security Council. However, while
Egypt will ALWAYS have veto power, South Africa and Nigeria will ROTATINGLY have
veto power. If Africa agrees to this, it should not matter to the rest of the UN

I believe that this compromise will best serve the interest of Africa.


As an African, it does matter – for continental pride – but it will be an insult
if it does not come with any veto power.

As a Nigerian, it would not matter more than a hill of beans if it does NOT make
our leadership become more responsible in its role of improving the lives of
ordinary Nigerian citizens.

Finally, I would hope that any permanent member would get kicked out of the
Council if its country’s governance is suddenly taken over by the military in a

Best wishes all.

Bolaji Aluko

AU defers decision on UN Security Council reform

Abuja, Nigeria, 01/31 – The African Union (AU) has mandated a committee to
thoroughly assess the report requesting reforms of the UN system, contrary to
speculations that suggested the current AU summit to be a battleground for
countries jostling to fill the African slot on an expanded UN Security Council.

The decision to set up the 15-member ministerial committee by the AU executive
council, comprising foreign ministers of member states, temporarily took the
wind out of the sail of the countries that have publicly indicated interest in
flying Africa`s flag as a permanent member of an expanded Security Council.

Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa are the top contenders for what was, hitherto,
expected to be a single African slot on the Security Council.

But the executive council, which met in the Nigerian capital ahead of the 30-31
January mid-term summit of the AU, also decided to push for two seats on the
powerful UN organ, which is responsible for the maintenance of international
peace and security.

Though Nigerian Information Minister, Chukwuemeka Chikelu had said the countries
would use the Abuja summit to boost their campaign for the African seat, none of
the three African giants made any public show of its plans.

“At the level of the executive council, no country came to say `we are vying for
any seat`,” said AU Spokesman Desmond Orjiako.

He explained that the 15-member committee will be convened 20-22 February 2005,
to be followed by an Extraordinary Session of the executive council which will
adopt Africa`s position.

That position, Orjiako explained, would then be presented to the UN
Secretary-General for inclusion in his report to the UN General Assembly in
March 2005.

Orjiako restated Africa`s commitment to the UN reform, especially that of the
Security Council where the continent is currently not represented on a permanent

“We have indicated interest in the general reform and democratisation of the UN
to get equal opportunities as Africans,” he told PANA in Abuja.

“It is only fair that we are also part of the global community. Nobody queries
that as Africa has made tremendous contribution to world peace,” the AU
Spokesman said.

The establishment of the UN before most African countries got independence meant
the continent was largely shut out of the most powerful organ of the global

Making an allusion to that, in a message sent to the Abuja summit, Japanese
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said his country believes that Africa should be
represented on a permanent basis in the UN Security Council.

“Japan considers it to be crucial to expand both the permanent and non-permanent
categories in the Security Council, to include both developing and developed
countries,” Koizumi said.

Africa Wants Veto Powers at Security Council-Mbeki

ABUJA (Reuters) – Africa wants veto powers for two new permanent seats it hopes
to get on the Security Council in an historic reform of the United Nations
expected this year, South African President Thabo Mbeki said.

The demand for veto powers, agreed at a summit of African leaders in Nigeria on
Monday, presents a challenge to the world body which has unveiled plans to raise
the number of seats, but leave veto powers in the hands of the existing five
permanent members: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

“In light of the fact the current permanent five are saying they will retain the
right of veto, therefore the new permanent members should have the same right,”
Mbeki said in an interview with Reuters and South African Broadcasting Corp
after a summit of the African Union (AU) late on Monday. “The AU is saying you
should not have two degrees of permanent members, some with a veto right and
others not.”

A high-level panel on reforming the United Nations has proposed two models for
enlarging the council from 15 to 24 members.

One proposal suggests adding six new permanent members without veto power —
including two from Africa — plus three new nonpermanent members for a two-year

The second option suggests adding eight seats in a new class of members who
would serve for four years, subject to renewal — again this would include two
from Africa. This plan foresees one non-permanent two-year seat.

Mbeki said the 53-member organization had decided on the first option, “with

The African Union will also press for five non-permanent seats on the Security
Council, Mbeki said, against the U.N.’s proposed three, to allow each of the
five main African regions to have one each.

Mbeki said a 15-member committee of African Union foreign ministers would draw
up detailed proposals to present to the United Nations before the end of March,
when Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to present his report on the

African Union delegates at the summit said the committee would also seek to
break a deadlock between Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt over which two nations
should be nominated to become permanent members. Any change to the council
membership needs approval from two-thirds of the 191-member U.N. General
Assembly and must avoid a veto by any of the council’s current permanent

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