President Robert Mugabe has called out South Africa and Nigeria at the 25th African Union summit over the weekend, saying Africa would never agree to them getting permanent seats on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
The two countries voted for UN Security Council Resolution 1973 in 2011, which authorised military action against the regime of Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and sources say Mugabe saw the actions as betrayal of the continent and believes they should never be trusted again.
On Saturday during the summit, Mugabe intervened in a meeting of the “Committee of 10”, which was discussing possible amendments to the “Ezulwini Consensus” on Africa’s position on reform of the UN Security Council.
The 2005 Ezulwini Consensus was that Africa should demand at least two permanent and five non-permanent seats on the council as part of the protracted, wider reform to make it more representative of the world.
The consensus also demanded that the two permanent seats should come with the same veto powers, enjoyed by the five current permanent members: the US, UK, China, Russia and France.
This demand for vetoes had effectively stymied Africa’s chances of reforming the council. And so the South African government was calling for Africa to adopt a more flexible approach by dropping the veto demand.
This was what the so-called G4 group of nations – Germany, Japan, India and Brazil – who were also seeking permanent seats on the council had done, as a tactical manoeuvre to try to diminish resistance to their bid.
Last year, South African President Jacob Zuma said Africa “needs to compromise – not reiterate – fixed positions as it has done for the past nine years”.
And he organised a retreat of African Foreign Ministers in February 2014 to review the Ezulwini Consensus.
South Africa also intended to raise it in the Committee of 10 meeting on Saturday. The Committee of 10 was appointed by the AU many years ago to pursue the UN Security Council reform.
But one regional official present at the meeting said he believed Mugabe’s attack on South Africa and Nigeria had seriously damaged South Africa’s case for reviewing the Ezulwini Consensus.
The official said Mugabe had not mentioned the two countries by name. But it was clear to all in the room who he was referring to, as he referred to African governments who had been on the UN Security Council when Resolution 1973 on Libya was adopted in 2011.