The UN Secretary-General Must Tread Cautiously in Africa

Wed, 1 Feb 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

(Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, January 30, 2012

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, is reported to have urged African leaders to respect gay rights, saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity “prompted governments to treat people as second class citizens or even criminals” (BBC News, January 29, 2012). He made the appeal in his opening address at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, including key Western allies such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, and Botswana. Both the United States and the United Kingdom recently warned they would use foreign aid to push for homosexuality to be decriminalized on the socially conservative continent, as the BBC put it.

By taking up this issue at this summit, Ban Ki-Moon has waded into a controversy that will definitely pit him and the organization he heads against African countries that detest homosexuality. It means he is on a collision course and shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome.

We won’t give Ban Ki-Moon the chance to dictate to us how to live our lives. What he chose to speak on at the AU summit had better be left to each country to handle as it deems fit. Nigeria has already passed a law against homosexuality, and the other countries won’t budge just because he has waded into the controversy. Africans don’t need any prompting from him to know and to do what will work well for them at the socio-cultural level. It is none of his business.

He must be told aboveboard that Africa’s immediate priorities don’t include the gay, lesbian, or queer phenomenon. Africa doesn’t really pride itself on that phenomenon to be bothered by a UN Secretary-General who seems not to know what to do to help the continent advance and end the exploitation and destabilization by the powerful member-states which control the UN and use it to achieve their cynical purposes.

Africa needs redemption from the quagmire into which the forces manipulating the UN itself have thrown it. We may acknowledge that Africa’s persistent under-development is partly caused by several self-created problems such as incompetent leadership and visionlessness, misplaced priorities, bribery and corruption, political instability, and social strife. But by the same token, we can’t rule out the insidiousness of the West in the widespread excruciating poverty that has become the lot of the continent.

We know of the 1948 UN Declaration of Fundamental Human rights and acknowledge the fact that gay/lesbian/queer issues have human rights aspects to consider. We understand that that Declaration is still relevant to the world. But we question the manner in which this Declaration of Fundamental Human Rights itself has been enforced all over the years.

We respect Ban Ki-Moon’s desire to draw attention to those gay/lesbian/queer issues. We don’t, however, accept his raising such issues to the level that his call suggests at a summit by the AU to deliberate on Africa’s development problems.

Considering the recent attempts (or threats?) by Britain’s David Cameron and the US’ Barack Obama to tie development aid to these gay/lesbian/queer issues, we can tell how the forces are arraying themselves against Africa from the economic standpoint. Their threats won’t scare anybody into doing anything against the socio-cultural norms undergirding Africa’s resistance to the gay/lesbian/queer phenomenon.

The UN itself lacks credibility when it comes to human rights issues. It hasn’t done well either at several levels, two of which are particularly disturbing—and which is why Ban Ki-Moon has no moral right to pontificate to African leaders about moral issues.

UN’s Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy (or betrayal?) of the UN under Ban Ki-Moon is obviously unprecedented. Let’s just take the “Arab Spring” as an example. Why will the UN rush to endorse the devastation of Libya under Gaddafi by the so-called International Coalition (NATO) only to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being perpetrated by other rulers of countries in the Arab world facing the wrath of their people?

Saudi Arabia sternly clamped down on the uprising against its monarchy and moved ahead to provide military support to crush those in Bahrain fighting against their rulers. Other Arab states were equally ruthless in suppressing public dissension and the call for reforms, but the UN kept mum.

Then, Syria. For over 10 months now, the uprising in Syria has resulted in many deaths and the situation deteriorates every passing day. Yet, the UN is approaching this crisis in a half-hearted manner while the Arab League that speedily supported NATO to hunt down and murder Gaddafi is unsure of what to do to solve the problem. Its observer mission is a sham, a ploy designed to throw dust into our eyes.

Take also the case of the Yemeni leader, Abdullah-Saleh and you will see how incredibly impotent the UN is. After causing so much pain to his people and doggedly refusing to step down, he is now in the United States under the pretext of receiving medical attention. Such a person is not fit for the hospital but the International Criminal Court, which the UN has given its blessing to for the persecution of African politicians accused of crimes against humanity.

What is it about the atrocities perpetrated by the Arab leaders still clinging on to power by killing their own people that is not horrendous enough to warrant their being prosecuted as is being done to the Africans? But the UN will not do so because its paymasters and handlers don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their economic and strategic interests in the Arab World.

There are many other hot spots all over the world that the UN can’t persuade me it is handling indiscriminately. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis persists because the UN can’t be bold enough to call a spade a spade. It is caught up in a maze that it has woven for itself as a result of its own hankying and pankying.

To be continued…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.