President Mugabe of Zimbabwe & United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
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From Itai Musengeyi at the UNITED NATIONS in New York
PRESIDENT Mugabe is now in New York City to attend the 61st United Nations General Assembly, which opens at the world body’s headquarters today.
The UN Headquarters site is officially international territory, not part of the United States.
Cde Mugabe and his delegation arrived here on Sunday and were met at John F. Kennedy International Airport by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the US Mr Machivenyika Mapuranga and officials from Zimbabwe’s Mission to the UN in New York.
The President is among nearly 90 leaders expected to address the General Assembly.
The Zimbabwean delegation flew into New York from Havana, Cuba, where it attended the 14th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit and the 13th Group of 15 (G15) Summit. G15, which has since expanded to 17 but retained its name, comprises developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America
The President is being accompanied by the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and other senior Government officials.
Zimbabwe’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, and the Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mr Chitsaka Chipaziwa, were also in Cuba for the NAM and G15 summits. Ambassador Chidyausiku handles NAM issues while Ambassador Chipaziwa deals with the G15 which seeks to promote co-operation between member-states and bodies such as the WTO, which develops ground rules for international commerce and mediates in trade disputes through, among other measures, regulating tariffs.
The NAM summit expressed disappointment at the outcome of the 2005 UN World Summit, saying it did not take into account the concerns and interests of developing countries — especially on development, official development assistance and trade.
However, the leaders said in spite of failing to thrash out these issues, the 2005 World Summit served as a basis to move forward the process of strengthening the UN to meet existing and emerging threats to economic and social development, peace and security and human rights.
The NAM summit said the UN reform must be transparent and inclusive.
"The voice of every member state must be heard and respected during the reform process irrespective of the contributions made to the budget of the organisation," the leaders said in their declaration.
NAM also bemoaned the disappearance of multilateralism, which has been replaced by unilateralism.
The nearly 90 leaders, dozens of foreign ministers and diplomats expected to attend the 61st General Assembly session will focus on the UN’s unfinished reforms, including the highly contentious issue of expanding the Security Council, the world body’s most powerful organ by virtue of the fact that it has the mandate to make decisions which other member governments must carry out under the UN Charter unlike other organs of the organisation which can only make recommendations. This makes its veto-wielding five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — inordinately potent and influential.
Iran’s nuclear programme will also feature prominently in discussions.
The session comes at a time the UN has secured a ceasefire in Lebanon, is endeavouring to revive the Middle East peace process and pressing Sudan to allow its peacekeepers into the war-torn Darfur region of the country.
At last year’s World Summit, UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan urged global leaders to respond to mounting criticism of the organisation and restore its credibility by adopting broad reforms needed for nations to act together to tackle poverty, terrorism and conflict.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joice Mujuru is the Acting President in the absence of President Mugabe.
In a statement yesterday, Information and Publicity principal Press secretary Mr Regis Chikowore said Cde Mujuru would be Acting President beginning yesterday.
Opinion & Analysis
UN reforms: Will Africa prevail?
By Innocent Gore
AFRICAN leaders — among them President Mugabe — join other world leaders at the 61st Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly this week, but the world will be watching whether Africa’s request to have two permanent seats and two non-permanent seats on an expanded Security Council will be acceptable to the five permanent members of the council.
The world will be watching whether Africa will table its resolution at the General Assembly session which begins this week, or will wait for a special session of the General Assembly scheduled for next March.
The African Union has been haggling over the past year on the reform of the UN Security Council.
Outgoing UN secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan, himself an African from Ghana, has proposed widespread reforms of the world body, including the reform of the powerful Security Council.
Observers say Africa should have taken advantage of the fact that Mr Annan is from the continent, and should therefore be sympathetic to Africa’s cause, to push for its position. They see a missed opportunity in that this General Assembly is Mr Annan’s last as his term of office is coming to an end.
Africa is pushing for meaningful and wide-ranging reforms of the UN Security Council, as opposed to cosmetic changes which would perpetuate the continent’s current position on the fringes of decision-making.
The continent wants the Security Council expanded to 26 seats, with six new permanent veto-wielding seats, two of which would be reserved for Africa, and five new non-permanent seats, two of which would also go to Africa.
Africa does not wish for the veto, but should demand it if other permanent members retain it. African leaders have adhered to this position at AU summits and extraordinary summits at Sirte, Libya, in July 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (August and November 2005) and Khartoum, Sudan (January 2006).
The issue was supposed to have been debated and exhausted at the AU Summit in Banjul, Gambia, in July this year, but it did not feature prominently as the High Level Committee of 10 heads of state and government set up at the Sirte summit had not yet finished preparing its report and did therefore not report its findings to the summit.
The committee of 10 is chaired by Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and comprises leaders (or their representatives) of Senegal (Sierra Leone and Senegal represent West Africa), Libya and Algeria from North Africa, Kenya and Uganda from East Africa, Zambia and Namibia from Southern Africa, and Equatorial Guinea and Congo Republic from Central Africa.
The committee’s mandate was to sell Africa’s position to the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council — namely Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
But there are fears that the committee has not done enough as African leaders join other world leaders to debate world affairs, including pressing issues on the continent, in New York this week.
There are also fears that African leaders might not go to the General Assembly with a united voice.
Already there are signs that some countries want to get into the Security Council at whatever cost, with or without the backing of the rest of the continent and with or without the veto.
Other leaders are of the view that Africa’s position should be tabled and debated at the General Assembly without any further delay and even without seeking support from the current permanent members. They argue that Africa risks losing out if it delays tabling its resolution at the General Assembly.
However, others are of the view that the resolution on Africa’s position should not be tabled in haste because if it fails, then the continent’s position would have been weakened.
Yet others argue that Africa must not negotiate for the two permanent seats with veto power and two non-permanent seats on an expanded Security Council, but must demand this as a right.
Africa, they argue, has suffered enough under slavery, colonialism, apartheid and the time has now come for the injustices to be atoned for through granting the continent its demands on the Security Council.
But despite all this, some African countries were said to be backtracking ahead of the General Assembly meeting and have endorsed a proposal by Brazil, Germany, Japan and India — the so-called Group of Four — to have six new permanent seats without veto power. These would be one each for the Group of Four and two for Africa, plus four other non-permanent seats.
For Africa, that would mean two permanent seats, one non-permanent seat and sharing another non-permanent seat with other developing regions.
Supposing the resolution on Africa’s position is adopted, the next battle will be on who will represent the continent in the expanded Security Council. South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Kenya, Libya, Algeria and Congo Republic are some of the countries that have been named as contenders for the Security Council seats reserved for Africa.
The front runners were thought to be South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. But questions have arisen as to whether Nigeria will be able to represent the continent’s interests in view of the way it handled the Charles Taylor issue.
For now, it remains to be seen whether the continent’s resolution will be tabled at the General Assembly, which begins this week, and whether this will prevail.
But one thing is certain: the developing world is certainly fed up with the unipolarism and the dominance of world affairs by the United States.
We will never be fooled
EDITOR — We are now sick and tired of pseudo-organisations that claim to be championing human rights while advancing the agenda of their sponsors.
I could not believe the naivety of one such organisation, the Coalition of Black Trade Unions based in the United States, that was quoted in The Saturday Herald story — "Break Zimbabwe stronghold" — saying it does not want people to think of President Mugabe as a liberation icon.
For lack of a better example, that is akin to a Briton wishing the world would stop thinking of Maradona as a great footballer simply because prior to scoring that wonder goal after slicing through the entire England defence at the 1986 World Cup finals, he had put Argentina in the lead with the now famed "hand of God" goal.
President Mugabe scored a wonderful goal against the British and the entire Western world through the land reform programme.
That is why the Western media and the newspapers and organisations they sponsor want to tarnish his image, but we will never be fooled for they cannot continue killing our prophets while we stand aside and watch.
President Mugabe is a hero, not only to United States-based Zimbabweans, but to everyone in the developing world who knows that it is not by divine providence that the North is rich while the Southern hemisphere is poor.
The reverse is actually true: the South is resource-rich while the North is poor in both natural resources and climate, which is why the inhabitants developed survival tactics that enabled them to loot our resources before we had the weapons to stop them.
President is right, we must own our land
EDITOR — I read with interest the article you published in The Saturday Herald (September 16, 2006) that quoted one Ruvimbo Masunungure, a Zimbabwean lawyer in the United States who seemed surprised at the support President Mugabe enjoys in the African-American community.
What prompted me to write this letter is the tongue-in-cheek approach my namesake, Masunungure, seems to have adopted in her call to have the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe lifted while at the same time seeking to influence opinion against President Mugabe in the African-American community.
I have scant regard for people who try to hunt with hares and run with the hounds.
She clearly wants to please her hosts by claiming that the problems in Zimbabwe have to do with issues of human rights and governance, and not the land reform programme.
Only a confused Zimbabwean would defend land tenure as it prevailed before the year 2000.
Masunungure should actually be ashamed that African-Americans, some of whom have never set foot in Zimbabwe, are more conscious than she is.
It is easy to know why they easily side with President Mugabe as they face discrimination every day of their lives.
Anyone who has lived in the Diaspora like me, knows that it is not only the climate that we find cold, but the icy racism that we face on a daily basis that prompts us to know that Gushungo is right, we must own our resources.
When I left Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in 2001, I was sympathetic to the MDC, but my experiences in the nursing homes with racist old ladies made me wiser.
If every African leader had President Mugabe’s guts, it would be white people who will flock to do menial jobs on our rich continent.