THE UNITED NATIONS General Assembly for the year 2023 commences in a fortnight. The global gathering tagged UNGA 78, an event which will bring leaders from various parts of the world together from September 18 to 26, will entail a lot of speechmaking by world leaders and country representatives as heads of governments. This annual ritual hitherto allowed to be used to elicit applause as a validation platform for many individuals who took over power through illegitimate means will still open the floor for more of the same this year. This year, at UNGA 78, the world will be treated to yet another bout of platitudes, deceptions, hypocrisies, moral grandstanding and high-sounding politically correct exhortations, particularly by many who seek to impress their well packaged lies upon the world that is considered their captive audience. The complicit press, particularly the traditional media, will do the predictable, amplifying those old-time tales by the moonlight — entertaining the world with all the hackneyed ‘breaking news’ and esoteric headlines — repeating the same old stories in different ways. In the end, statements will be made about the state of the world’s security, economy and socio-political situations. Hot-button issues that supposedly knit the world together might be drummed up and those considered as priorities will receive a lot of attention.
In a period devoted to spinning of narratives, UNGA offers a platform to take a fresh look at issues of the moment, providing much content and talking points for individuals, corporate bodies and governments to engage themselves with. While some are recurring, others are infrequent. One of the latter was the COVID-19, which took the world by the storm in 2020 and led to a number of definite changes to the way the world affairs are being conducted. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the world learnt a very hard way to adjust to social distancing, staying indoors compulsorily, working from home, wearing masks, an unprecedented rise in conducting more activities and businesses online as well as mandatory shots of COVID-19 vaccines. It was a swell time for the vaccine producers who had a ready platform in the UN for promoting their products. Many politicians and international technocrats became “emergency and circumstantial health experts,” usurping the roles of public health practitioners and subjugating the latter in the process.
With the towering status of the UN, the egregious errors of its various operational arms – during the COVID-19 campaigns on a disease event that led to a huge global economic setback – were treated as inviolate facts which must not be questioned. One of them was the “infodemic” narrative spun, prompted and promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after the agency’s boss, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, reluctantly agreed on March 11, 2020, that a pandemic was in the making. He had belatedly agreed officially in a speech that “we have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” after weeks of dilly-dallying and pandering to China that was trying to cover up what could be described as reported index cases in Wuhan. After Dr. Tedros’ landmark declaration, politicians took over as public health experts, with all manner of policies and draconian rules. The powerful media clamped down on dissenting opinions and took the world on a trip to a polarised world in which those who disagreed with popularly promoted views were branded, stereotyped, stigmatised and censored. The UN became an infallible reference point on anything COVID-19, whether on the medical, public health, economy or politics. While critical issues relating to curbing the excesses of those behind unregulated and unbridled intellectual curiosities – as in vaccine research, particularly the “gain of function” research in which the US and China scientists have been implicated – were tactically avoided, a disproportionate attention was given to discussions on ‘vaccine inequalities,’ a reference to unequal access to the COVID-19 vaccines by the global south compared to the global north. It means those who presumably created the COVID-19 monsters could go scot-free while the rest of the world is kept busy discussing peripheral and tangential issues.
On the recurring issues, the UN has distinguished itself as well in the way it handles them. While climate change is expected to feature again at UNGA 78, the nuanced issues of underlying politics might not be addressed to any appreciable extent, even if recognised privately. Apart from the usual already popularised carbon trading and renewable energy, the inequalities between the industrialised countries of the global north and the underdeveloped countries in the global south may be treated as an issue of mere passing interest. The global politicians and technocrats are expected to repeat the admonitions to the DR Congo and countries in the Amazon basin to preserve their pristine forests for the benefit of humanity in the global efforts to reduce global warming and tame climate change. While the subject matter of climate change and energy transition might be pushed to the forefront by conference influencers, the centrality of Africa in achieving the lofty expected goals are very unlikely to be discussed with any forthrightness at the UNGA 78. The link between global politics and the economy will be preserved. The same old tactics will play out. Speechmaking platforms will be given to the political leaders who perennially plunder Africa’s resources, stow them away in Europe and North America, and for enablers of the West’s pillaging and defrauding of Africa.
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The backwardness of Africa is not in doubt. What remains in doubt is the sincerity or true commitment of the West and the UN multilateral system in reversing or ending the backwardness. The gospel of ‘democracy’ has become a sanctuary and a safe haven of some sorts for those used as pawns by the complicit West. While the UN, the US, Canada and the EU would theoretically agree that democracy is a more desirable system of government, there seems to be a tinge of hypocrisy in practice. These countries and the multilateral organisations will applaud the geriatric despots from Africa when they take the floor for speechmaking at the UN but will not question their democratic credentials. They will receive Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as democratic president of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya as democratic president of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni as President of Uganda, all because they claim to have been “elected” into the office. France, for instance, will hail the exemplary leadership of Alassane Ouattara, ignoring the fact that he violated the constitution of Côte d’Ivoire to gain an illegitimate third term in office. Joe Biden of the US will officially receive Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu whose legitimacy in office as democratically elected president is still under dispute. But public speech might be made by Ouattara or Tinubu on democracy and its desirability.
The Vienna Convention of 1963 on consular relations will be defended by democracy promoters of the West when found suitable, but the same will be ignored when found unsuitable. For France, it is its prerogative to determine what is suitable for Niger Republic. It can therefore choose to ignore Niger’s threat to expel France ambassador in Niamey under the pretext of not recognising the government of the military junta that seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, 2023. But France can recognise and support the government of Côte d’Ivoire’s Allasane Ouattara that got a third term office through a democratic coup. The same France would keep mum after the controversial election victory of Gabon’s ailing president Ali Bongo, only to start whining after the takeover of government by the Gabonese soldiers in what — in democratic parlance — is regarded as illegitimate government. Indeed, to the US under Biden, it seems like the process of becoming an elected president is inconsequential as long as it is a democracy. In what reeks of hypocrisy and double standard, the same Joe Biden that refused to invite leaders from Mali, Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso to last year’s US-Africa Leaders’ Summit will host Bola Tinubu this month in Washington DC. The justification for hosting Tinubu, for instance, will be anchored upon the argument on sovereignty of nations, in which case it is not the business of the US to interfere in Nigeria’s internal affairs. It was just as well for corrupt governments of Niger’s Mohamed Bazoum, Mali’s Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Burkina Faso’s Roch Kabore, Guinea’s Alpha Condé and – lately – Gabon’s Ali Bongo, but it is legitimate to fight to restore Bazoum, considered as an ally of the West.
The idea of a Western ally as an African president is becoming clearer. The over-dependence of France on former colonies in Africa is typical. France, a foremost country in the fight against climate change and a leading advocate of green energy, will soon be unmasked as a major destroyer of climate and an adversary of green energy. The ordeal of Niger, a major supplier of uranium to France, is the first instance. Niger’s uranium-rich northern town of Arlit is now left with an estimated 20 million tonnes of radioactive waste after a uranium mine run by French company Orano (formerly Areva) closed down in March 2021, following the depletion of its reserves, exposing the people living in the area to levels of radiation above the limits recommended by health experts. While this does not grab headlines in global influential media, French rode on the tide of the COP 21 it hosted and the Paris Agreement of December 12, 2015 to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” to gain popularity as climate conscious. This is in addition to its nuclear power plants accounting for 68 percent of the country’s annual electricity generation, considered as renewable energy and environmentally friendly.
But any kind of government in power that keeps France in place to continue to extract uranium deposits in Niger will not be illegitimate. Illegitimacy only consists in whatever disrupts the access of France to such resources. The same goes for the US in some other areas of vested interests in Africa. Those given the accolades of Western allies wear such a badge of honour for opening up their countries to exploitations by these foreign interests. Historically, the same Western countries talking about democracy now have toppled many democratic governments in Africa and installed Western puppets. We are left to wonder when and where to believe them whenever we hear them talking about democracy. The UN multilateral validator of Western values – one of which is democracy – will have a tough task of convincing most of African countries that it is truly committed to fairness and equity by its vacillation on what constitutes a legitimate and illegitimate government in an African setting and what makes the democracy in Africa different from that of the West.