Please kindly allow me space in your great newspaper to raise my concern over the comments of Gambian opposition figure Mai Ahmed Fatty on the need for political dialogue with the ruling APRC government which your paper published on your Monday 21st July publication. I must say that I am indeed baffled by Mr Fatty’s statement because he did not thoroughly explain the kind of political dialogue he is calling for.
I hereby ask Mr Fatty the following questions: Do you want the opposition and the ruling party to come on a national platform to settle their differences if there are any? Are you calling on the ruling party to accommodate the opposition in the system for all of them to start working in the interest of the nation, concomitantly for one party system to exist? Or are you calling for the ruling party and the opposition to see each other as partners-in-development and not as enemies under a sound political environment? Please get back to the Gambian people Mr Fatty; we want to know what exactly you mean.
However, it is high time that the opposition in the country started to make a choice, you either pose a strong challenge to the ruling party or you give way to the emerging young generation of politicians to take the lead in our country’s politics. The credibility of the opposition must be there before any serious challenge can be posed to the ruling party. In most if not all matured and developed political societies, the opposition are always seen as a threat to the ruling party. But is this the case in our own Gambia? I ask the Gambian people, the opposition in particular. People cannot stay out of the country and only show up when elections are approaching. These people I will call ‘occasional politicians’.
Apart from Mr Fatty’s urge for a political dialogue, as a concerned Gambian, I hereby personally call for a ‘Renaissance’ in Gambian politics. There is a need for political education and orientation of Gambians for greater political transformation for the realisation of 21st century political renaissance in our country’s political game.
However, the opposition, the ruling party in particular must take the lead in ushering the country in a well civilised political game and create the enabling platform for Gambians from all walks of life to actively participate in politics without any menace.
Finally, as we approach the 2016 polls, I call on all political parties to speak to the Gambians sooner rather than later. Present your plans and programmes to the Gambian people. Sell your political agenda to the voters before the time and Gambians should also know your candidates in time to make informed decisions at the polls.
Security Council reform: why it matters and why it’s not happening
On too many issues of global concern, the United Nations faces gridlock. The Security Council, embodying as it does the post-war oligopoly in its permanent membership, desperately needs reform to empower the wider world and to improve its effectiveness. But those with their feet under the table are reluctant to give way.
The major criticism of the five permanent members (or P5) is that the panel lacks representation from Africa and Latin America, provides a platform for waning rather than rising powers and does not have a place for economically powerful nations such as India or Germany. Overall global influence is now pivoting towards Asia and away from the West, meaning the composition of the UN Security Council reflects a post-World War II colonial system that is woefully outdated but still powerful.
From an African standpoint, the African Union has formulated what has become known as the Ezulwini Consensus, within which it would seek at least two permanent seats on the P5—crucially with veto—and a further five non-permanent seats to be decided by it. The document notes, reasonably, that although Africa is opposed in principle to the veto, while it exists it should be available to all permanent members of the Security Council. Africa’s claim also benefits from being almost universally supported in principle.
The inherent paradox is that for the Security Council to reform the five nations holding ultimate power have to vote to give some of it up. Also, looking to the future, would new members of an expanded UNSC be willing to forgo their status if global power dynamics were to shift decisively in another direction, as they surely will?
The organisation has, in terms of participation, been a huge success and its involvement in international affairs does carry significant weight. But the divide between the General Assembly and the Security Council is marked. GA delegates complain of a lack of transparency in the Security Council and even the non-permanent members can find themselves literally locked out when the P5 wishes to discuss matters alone.
Political will among the more senior states is what is delaying the advancement of any of these plans and problems unrelated to UN reform continue to cause friction among the rest of the UN’s members. For example, Saudi Arabia’s recent actions may be at least in part driven by more prosaic annoyance at Iran’s tentative moves towards rapprochement with the west via the UN than frustration at reform inertia.
But there is a precedent for significant change. In the 1960s, the Security Council’s rotating membership was expanded from six to ten. Although the permanent members made their objections to the move clear, ultimately they ratified it and it became UN law. Whether this success could be replicated in very different global conditions and with a much-expanded UN is another matter.
What may happen is that if organisations such as the EU, the AU or the Arab League become stronger, they may take on even more of the peacekeeping and security role being played by the UN—with or without its express direction. If states do not see their grievances addressed in New York or Geneva, they may be minded to take their quest for justice to their regional representatives. Should this happen, then the pressure to reform the UNSC may decrease but such an eventuality could arguably diminish the status of the body too. Perhaps this vista is what may herald a change.