By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
A little over twenty days from now, the United Nations General Assembly at its resumed 70th session is scheduled to elect five states members to serve on the Security Council a two year term as non-permanent members. Beginning January 1, 2017, the elected five states would join the other 10 in the Council to preside over the question of international peace and security and the dangers of war wherever, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
The five candidate states are:
- Ethiopia is sole candidate from Africa;
- Kazakstan and Thailand from Asia and Pacific competing for single seat;
- Bolivia is sole candidate from the Latin America and Caribbean States; and,
- Italy and Sweden competing for single seat from the Western European and Other region.
From the above, it can clearly be seen that the regional groups of Asia and Pacific and Western Europe and Other would experience competitions for the vote of the 193 member states in the General Assembly; the decisions of those member states are very important, which will be delivered via secret ballot.
In the case of the other two, i.e., Ethiopia and Bolivia, which seem to have a clean slate of regional support based on the respective endorsements, the President of the General Assembly is only required to ensure especially if there is a request from any member state for a vote. His ears wide open, he grants the floor to any request to hear if they come on that. Mostly, however, at this point states make it clear at the outset that their intervention is to explain their vote in support of Candidate X State before the vote.
The objective of this is to make statement of strong support to a given candidate, or it could be to influence others to support, or pressure contender(s) to consider withdrawing.
If no vote is requested, Ethiopia and Bolivia are considered elected. A member state makes it to the Security Council (or any other body), if it garners majority support and/or is endorsed by its regional group, as has been the case thus far.
UN must seek innovation by Member States in regional candidature mechanisms
For some states, election into United Nations Charter-bodies via secret ballot is considered a vote of their principles and conscience. It is the case that some nations have strong views when it comes to membership of the Security Council and Human Rights Council.
These nations show strong preference to the criterion of election as means toward realizing objectives of the Charter of the United Nations, i.e. – the goal of ensuring maintenance of international peace and security – and, in accordance with international law, respect for fundamental human rights and human dignity.
From perspective of the Organization’s experience, however, the United Nations must come to terms with the fact that its experience of endorsement by regional groups has barely proved its strong suit of armor. On the contrary, this practice has even adversely affected the Organization’s efficacy, especially when it comes to realization of the Charter’s lofty principles; some often totally ignore them.
A case in point is the membership of Burundi and Ethiopia in the Human Rights Council, which after three Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of Ethiopia since 2009 has reduced it to a useless talking shop. Justifiably or not, some see Ethiopia’s dreadful human rights situation and the crimes against citizens as the Achilles Heels of international law. In the context of the 2011-2015 country cooperation program, the UK government characterized Ethiopia’s “political governance presents both substantive challenges to sustainable development and reputational risks to partners.”
This means nations with questionable commitment and integrity toward the Charter and other relevant international instruments, or those that carry within them the seeds of instability have been known, ipso facto, to contribute to weakening of vitally important international bodies. As often is the case, no better cause is served by their membership of such bodies than undermining international cooperation and collaboration.
Recall that, to the dismay of many UN member states and UN observers, upon endorsement of Burundi by the African Union (AU) as candidate for a vacant seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 28, 2015 the herd mentality of the automatic majority at the General Assembly approved Burundi. This has become a huge fiasco at the United Nations badly reflecting on Africa and its candidature mechanism.
Most interesting is the time it being the beginning of the rebellion against the dictatorial President Pierre Nkurunziza as a reaction to unconstitutional action to remain in office on expiry of his second term. In the tradition of Africa’s strongmen and deceitful ‘ethnopoliticians’ as in Ethiopia, he then turning it into an ethnic rebellion against his rule, recalling the country’s ugly past on that and that of Rwanda.
How this was lost on African states and the AU has become the troubling irony of the time. They knew that the Burundi state was and still is at war against the people. This is owing to Nkurunziza’s violation of the law of the land on the constitutional two-term limit for the presidency that led to conflict that still engulfs it.
Burundi is now paying for this in human lives and its future. Already several hundreds of lives have been lost and several tens of thousands have been uprooted from their homes, as they fled to the neighboring states. This is now threatening the fragile and delicate peace in the Great Lakes region.
States need to object Ethiopia’s membership
As indicated in a pervious article, in which I registered my well considered objection to Ethiopia’s candidacy to a seat in the Security Council, I must point out that there are no specific qualifications or requirements in the Charter about membership of the United Nations Security Council.
Nonetheless, over the years United Nations tradition and practices have zeroed in on participation in peacekeeping operations and financial contributions to the UN budget, i.e., extrabudgetary financing. Many now accept that this criterion has been outmoded, as an excuse by the well-endowed nations in the north to avoid being entangled in developing countries’ troubles and conflicts, especially in Africa.
On the other hand, what we now know is that joining peacekeeping operations has become business for the military in poor developing states. The rich countries have nearly relegated manning of peacekeeping operations entirely to developing countries, with the exception of France. Therefore, it is well known that poor states that seek donor political and financial support, so to put it, get subcontracted, especially as in conflict zones as Somalia, West Africa, etc. The poor nations also calculate to benefit from UN payments for contingent weapons and emoluments to their soldiers in foreign currency (treasury or defense ministry first), towards which they happily contribute troops that do not necessarily get even 70 percent of their pay, as is the case in Ethiopia.
The attraction if this is very strong for nations like Ethiopia to become top troop contributing nation. And yet, its record on human rights has for several years now has put it as an enemy of the objectives abd principles of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant national and international human rights instruments.
Torture, outlawed under international law, is common and routinely practiced in Ethiopian prisons. Often people freed from prison return with new ailments or suffer lost limbs. Many continue to languish in its prisons, while the very unfortunate ones have either perished in the high seas trying to escape its persecution, or are in despicable situations as refugees. Ethiopia practices suppression of the media; it persecutes and imprisons journalists, opposition party leaders and members. Torture in Ethiopia is standard operating practice. Among others, the 2015 United States Department of State annual Human Rights report has also confirmed this. It states:
“There were credible reports police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa. Interrogators reportedly administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported abuses, including torture that occurred at Maekelawi. In a 2013 report, HRW described beatings, stress positions, the hanging of detainees by their wrists from the ceiling, prolonged handcuffing, pouring of water over detainees, verbal threats, and solitary confinement at the facility. Authorities continued to restrict access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi, although some NGOs reported limited access. The majority of the mistreatment reportedly occurred in detention centers like Maekelawi and police stations rather than federal prisons. According to NGO reports, thousands of ethnic Oromos, whom the government accused of terrorism, were arbitrarily arrested and in some cases reportedly tortured.”
As a matter of fact, with such record, the TPLF regime in Ethiopia only brings disrepute to the United Nations Security Council and disrespect to the Charter. The hands of Ethiopian leaders have for long been stained with the blood of innocent Ethiopians.
Moreover, the Charter frowns on any nation whose policies create conditions favoring conflicts, either rooted in ethnicity, or religion, or political issues, etc., thereby endangering international peace and security in such a volatile region.
After all, as per Charter VII, Article 39, one of the primary functions of the Security Council is to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
In addition, unlike the actions and practices of Ethiopian state under the TPLF, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 7 states:
“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
It is vitally important that this is taken seriously in considering for the last time, the candidatures of states such as Ethiopia in the Security Council. Ethiopia is comprised of over 80 ethnic groups, most of them with grievances about ethnic inequality, bad governance, worst corruption by national officials and discrimination, in a sub-region that is afflicted with abject poverty, diseases and ignorance, while the parasitic elites in power who lead unearned first-world life styles.
Ethiopia’s mockery is that the TPLF constitution also mentions prohibition against “discrimination” five times. In particular, Article 25 states:
“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status.”
Who should become UN Security Council Member?
Interpretation of the United Nations Charter, especially its Preamble, gives good idea of what country could and should become a member of the Security Council. The Charter clearly defines its major goals and objectives, which to this date have remained pillars of what the Organization stands for. These are actions that states also have pledged commitment to undertake:
* Saving and protecting peoples from the scourges of war that cause human sufferings, sorrows and deaths;
* Reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small;
* Establishing conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
* Promoting for all human beings social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
From what we know about Ethiopia, in the past quarter century it has become a nation divided within itself, whose cracks have begun to increasingly show it is ready to go off anytime, especially in six of the nine regions: Oromia, Gambella, Gondar, Ogaden, Afar and SNNPR.
The ethnic minority regime in Addis Abeba has reduced Ethiopia into ethnic pockets, sort of ‘Bantu’ administrative units, tottering as as federal arrangement. In the meantime, the ethnic mafia, personified as the TPLF at the center has been designing repressive laws, and creating institutions that carry them out in disregard of public outcries.
The Ethiopian state has fallen captive in the hands of the TPLF mafia. They have proved skillful in exploiting its institutional, legal and enforcement capacities of a longstanding tradition of a nation with centuries of statehood. This has undermined the freedoms and human rights of citizens. That is why the TPLF has been free to carry out whatever it likes, without any accountability.
Consequently, TPLF’s signing and ratification of international instruments is only meant to be flagrantly violated, which also means the violation of the United Nations Charter and the basic international law instruments on human rights and human dignity.
The sum of all the above is that Ethiopians have fallen under the whims of an authoritarian regime. The TPLF members are known to have the ease of conscience to delve into thievery, adventurism, brigandage, abductions of citizens from neighboring nations and illegal aggrandizement of the nation´s resources and murders – with no control whatsoever.
This has been the main reason why Ethiopians prisons have been full, the crimes citizens being either the ethnicity they belong to, or the stand they take in defense of their human rights the state considers treason. We have so many Ethiopians exiled, or are refugees in neighboring countries and elsewhere. Today, Ethiopia has more journalists in Kenya than inside the country.
It is no surprise that on Saturday’s The East African Muthoni Wanyeki of Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes should plead with her fellow citizens to “Spare a thought for the Ethiopians in our midst“.
In that article, the AI director noted:
“Ethiopia is a human-rights disaster. Which means that Kenya is host to over 30,000 asylum-seekers and refugees and they still need Kenya’s protection.”
As a person familiar with the ethnic tensions and some of the open conflicts in, for instance, Oromia, Gambella and Ogaden, Muthoni Wanyeki touches upon the implications and danger of Kenya voluntarily choosing to violate international law by returning refugees to their assailants in Ethiopia.
On June 3, 2016, Amnesty International protested in another article about opposition detainees in Ethiopia, including Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chief of the Oromo Federalist Congress, for being brought some bare feet and, according to AI, “inadequately dressed.”
The AI complaint summed up what I have been discussing in this article with fewer words, as follows:
“Aside from the beatings they [Bekele Gerba et.al] suffered in detention, degrading the defendants by making them attend court in their underpants is a new low in the behavior of the prison authorities and a total outrage…The Ethiopian authorities and the Court cannot let this ill-treatment go unanswered. They must ensure a prompt credible investigations and that those responsible are held accountable.”
The United Nations General Assembly at its 70th anniversary and 68 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would not choose to stain its reputation before history by offering murderers and worst offenders of human rights as represented by Ethiopia’s candidacy aspiring a seat in the Security Council!
AI concluded by stating:
“Ethiopia’s long time muzzling of dissent has had a devastating effect on opposition members and human rights defenders who are completely prevented from exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.
The regime is planing to improve its image now. This is not done by improving its record, but squelching it, i.e., through damages to the nation’s honor and respect, as does the mafia in its pretension trying to appear pillar of the community. One of such measures is becoming a member of the United Nations Security Council. Part of that strategy is also to get the post of Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) to its foreign minister, a soft spoken person whose venom in defense of the regime is fatally dangerous.
TPLF’s approach is irresponsible, with no commitment to laws and societal norms and traditions. I have not doubt that the Front’s actions would only undermine the United Nations Security Council.
Its tainted and corrupt approach would also hurt the WHO, more particularly by endangering its independence – of one of the oldest UN agencies whose services and guidance are very much required, as the global health and disease surveillance needs increase.
That is why I earnestly urge nations of the world to deprive the TPLF regime of the tools and capacities it has so successfully utilized to hoodwink nations one and all for the past 25 years! Governments and states members of the United Nations owe it to the people of Ethiopia and the peoples of the world!
Let not brutes get away with their well-calculated projects of undermining human freedoms and human development.