Africa is organizing to claim its place on the Security Council, the highest body of global governance. What are its arguments, its means and its chances of winning?
More than ever, the question of the representation of Africa in world bodies arises today. The context is that of a fragmented international order, with the emergence of an unaligned “Global South”, which has shown itself unwilling to support the West in the United Nations votes against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Africa, which with 54 States accounts for 28% of the 193 member countries of the United Nations, has claimed for 25 years now – a first declaration having been made in Harare in 1997 – two permanent seats on the Security Council, and five non-permanent members . In July 2005, African leaders submitted to the General Assembly a common African proposal for the reform of the United Nations entitled “the Ezulwini Consensus”.
As India, which is part, with Brazil, Japan and Germany, countries officially candidates for a permanent seat on the Security Council, Africa pleads for a demographic rebalancing, insofar as its population, 1.4 billion inhabitants, is equivalent to 18% of the total global.
The Security Council has had five permanent seats since the end of World War II, held by the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain. In addition, since a reform adopted in 1963 by resolution, after Independence, it has no longer 6, but 10 non-permanent members elected for a two-year term. Among these non-permanents are regularly three African countries: Gabon and Ghana in 2022-23 and Mozambique in 2023-24 – their presence by rotation giving rise to diplomatic jousting in Africa and at the United Nations.
Largest peacekeeping missions
” Half of the issues on the agenda of the Security Council and 70% of those listed under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter concern Africa “, pleaded at the end of 2020 Mohammadou Issoufou, then President of Niger, in a meeting of the Security Council. Worse still, he lamented, the voices of African states and the AU are not always listened to and taken into account, as evidenced by the case of Libya, where the military intervention launched in 2011 provoked an outcry “. The consequences for neighboring countries, including his own, are now known. Important signal: the current UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said in February 2020 in Addis Ababa: ” In Libya, while the African Union was trying to convince Gaddafi to leave power, the Security Council chose the option of bombardments (…). I fully understand why, since 2011, African countries feel left out “.
The continent is not only the theater of operations for the largest peacekeeping missions deployed in the world, with deployed personnel of 17,954 people in South Sudan, 17,885 in the Central African Republic, 17,753 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (DRC), 15,778 in Mali, and 2,602 in the Abiye region of Sudan. ” Africa’s contribution to peacekeepers is absolutely significant “, noted at the end of March during an online conference Alain Le Roy, Ambassador of France and former Deputy Secretary General of the UN in charge of peacekeeping operations over the period 2008-11: “ There are no less than 18 African countries in the top 30 contributors to peacekeepers, he points out. Rwanda ranks 4th after India, Pakistan and Bangladesh which have very large armies, Egypt comes 7th, Senegal 11th, Morocco 12th, Tanzania 14th, etc”.
A sticking point: the right of veto
The African Union (AU) stepped up to the plate in 2005, asking for two permanent seats with the right of veto, during the overture to reform made by Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. Kofi Annan, then secretary general, was in favor of it. The objective: to increase the Security Council from 15 to 25 members with six new permanent members including 2 countries for Asia, 2 for Africa, 1 for Latin America and the Caribbean and 1 for Western Europe , in addition to 4 new non-permanent seats. The shoe pinches essentially on the request formulated by the Africans and the other candidate countries to guarantee the right of veto for all the new permanent members. ” The request is legitimate, but it is refused from the start by the United States, China and Russia, explains Alain Le Roy. Hence the blocking of the current situation “.
Mohammed Loulichki, former permanent representative of Morocco to the United Nations, recalls that the continent cannot be represented by the AU, but only by sovereign states, for legal reasons. These are due to the fact that membership is conferred by the Charter exclusively on sovereign States, while international organizations can only claim observer status. The diplomat believes that an institutional lock weighs on the reform because of the Charter of the United Nations, which would have to be modified. ” To do this, it will require the approval of those who already have the privilege of the right of veto… They will be the last to share it. Will it take another world war to reform the UN? I hope not. Ukraine has certainly created momentum for the relaunch of negotiations on the enlargement of the Security Council “.
Ten countries mandated by the African Union
In the meantime, Africa’s strategy still seems confused: the AU is rushing to obtain two seats, which cannot be occupied in its name. She has set up a group called “C10”, which brings together ten mandated countries to negotiate the reform of the Security Council, while Egypt and South Africa have already positioned themselves to obtain a permanent seat.
Is this group, a skilful balance of sub-regional balances, in itself an admission of weakness? It avoids involving the main African powers, nor does it include the nations most feared for their army, and which do not hesitate to deploy contingents in theaters of conflict – as Angola decided on March 17 in the DRC or Rwanda since 2021 in Mozambique. Curiously, we find in the “C10” Algeria and Libya, a country in crisis, which represent North Africa, Senegal and Sierra Leone for West Africa, and more logically because of their respective economic and military weight, Kenya and Uganda for East Africa. Equatorial Guinea and Congo are on their side at the maneuver for Central Africa, alongside Zambia and Namibia for Southern Africa. ” This configuration has not changed since the creation of this group, while a rotation could have introduced a beneficial dynamic “, notes Mohammed Loulichki.
The C10, which was at its tenth meeting on January 12, 2023 in Brazzaville, seems to be skating. Africa has hardly any strong supporters, apart from germany and Japan, since 2022. For their part, some of the permanent members of the Security Council are still reluctant to reform, and recall that Africa contributes little to the United Nations budget (up to 0.01% in 2021 , compared to 22% for the United States). In the end, money remains king: Africa, if it wants to weigh in world affairs, must also gain in economic strength. For the moment, and despite its advocacy, it represents only 4% of the world’s GDP.