Security Council's lack of African voices a 'historical injustice', says Mozambique envoy

As Mozambique begins its first two-year term on the council, it faces the pressing issues of climate change and terrorism

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The lack of permanent representation for African nations on the UN Security Council is a “historical injustice” that must be rectified, Mozambique’s ambassador to the UN has said.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Pedro Comissario noted that the world’s most powerful international organ is western-centric by design and called for an overhaul.

“[The] Security Council was an institution that was created more than 70 years ago, and it answered the concerns of peace and security, mostly of Europe. But this is no longer the case,” he said, speaking as the US ambassador to the UN embarked on a trip to Africa.

Africa, the world’s second-largest continent after Asia, is “underrepresented”, he said, while two of the Security Council's five permanent seats go to European nations ― France and Britain. A third goes to Russia, and the remaining two are occupied by the US and China.

It is “high time” to address this and Africa should have at least two permanent seats on the Security Council, something that is especially vital considering African issues account for more than 60 per cent of the council's agenda, Mr Comissario said.

African states have long called for an overhaul of the Security Council. Nations from Asia and Latin America have amplified the demand.

Asked why he thinks reforms have not yet happened, Mr Comissario said the “geopolitical interests” of the permanent five members “come in the middle and make the issue very difficult to solve”.

During his UN General Assembly address in September, President Joe Biden told delegates the US would support reforming the Security Council, specifically mentioning the addition of permanent members from Africa.

That sentiment has been echoed by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, who this week will visit Mozambique, Ghana and Kenya as part Mr Biden’s commitment to expand and modernise US partnerships in Africa.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield will meet humanitarian partners and leaders from UN agencies, the wider international NGO community and local leaders to discuss food insecurity, refugees and other humanitarian needs across the continent.

Africa's struggle with terrorism — in pictures

She will also discuss US support for increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for Africa, “which has long been underrepresented and will be looking to follow up consultations on this trip as well”, a Biden administration official said.

This will be the US ambassador’s third trip to sub-Saharan Africa since she assumed office nearly two years ago.

US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen is also in the region this week to “deepen US-Africa economic ties” by expanding trade and working with partners across the continent on economic and trade issues.

During the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December, which was attended by 49 heads of state and government in Washington, Mr Biden announced $55 billion in support and investment for Africa over the next three years.

As Mozambique begins its first ever two-year term on the Security Council, it faces the pressing issues of climate change and terrorism.

African countries banded together last year with Niger and Ireland to advance a resolution linking climate change with terrorism in the Sahel and beyond.

But Russia and India vetoed the measure, saying it was an attempt to shift climate talks from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to the Security Council.

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Terrorism has taken root across much of Africa, Mr Comissario said.

“We are already witnessing, particularly in the Sahel region, that climate change is a factor of instability” and is making the advance of terrorism “quicker and speedier”.

The ambassador called it “the progressive Africanisation of terrorists”.

To some extent, he said, “terrorism aims to replace colonialists in the continent of Africa”.

Mozambique has been battling an extremist insurgency in its northern Cabo Delgado province since 2017. According to the UN, the conflict has killed more than 4,000 people and displaced about one million.

Mozambique’s ambassador would like to see the UN and the international community play a bigger role in supporting countries affected by terrorism, similar to the “strong commitment in military support” for Ukraine.

“When countries like Mali, like Burkina Faso or others want help from the [Russian paramilitary force] Wagner Group, it means that there is an absence of collective security,” he said.

Wagner is widely believed to be tied to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Moscow denies any involvement.

The Russian private military contractor has trained local troops across several African hotspots including Mozambique, the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan.

Mr Comissario said Mozambique is no longer is using Wagner but was not against using the Russian contractors if the need arose.

“We are not against finding solutions, including through [the] Wagner Group, to fight terrorism,” he said.

“We do not think it is something that deserves to be condemned.”

Weapons confiscated from insurgents are displayed in the Mozambique port city of Mocimboa da Praia in 2021. AFP
Updated: January 23, 2023, 11:00 PM