Why Rwanda’s UN Security Council presidency is good news

Today, April 1, Rwanda takes over from Russia as the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), three months after the country joined the world’s all-important peace and security organ, as a non-permanent member.
James Munyaneza
James Munyaneza

Today, April 1, Rwanda takes over from Russia as the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), three months after the country joined the world’s all-important peace and security organ, as a non-permanent member.

The post-Genocide Rwandan government and the United Nations bureaucrats have not exactly had the smoothest of relationships, largely due to the latter’s tragic indifference during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and their subsequent handling of some of the consequences of that catastrophe.

Indeed to many Rwandans, the United Nations has been anything but a symbol of healing, justice and reconciliation in the post-Genocide Rwanda.

From the cases delivered by the UN-backed ICTR to the countless leaks of reports containing vitriolic and unverifiable allegations of Kigali’s role in the never-ending conflicts in eastern DRC, it is not difficult to guess why Rwandans have unsettled grievances against the world body.

But amidst all this, there is still a sense of optimism among many Rwandans. Many still feel that one day the United Nations as we know it today will transform into the very body that was envisaged, at least officially, when this organisation was created nearly seven decades ago.

Indeed this hope must be shared by many people around the world, which probably explains why 188 member states (out of 193 members) still recognise the veto privilege held by a minority club of five countries, also known as P5, a privilege that’s solely based on the fact that they were the major victors of the World War II.

Today it’s a different order. Generations have come and passed since the world order that determined the P5 setup. Today, none P5 members Japan, India, Germany and Brazil are third, fourth, fifth and seventh world’s largest economies, with each ranked higher than the United Kingdom and France, both of which enjoy veto powers. I don’t see any relevant measure that justifies the current setup of the permanent members of the UNSC. Africa is perhaps the biggest loser in the current arrangement, considering that none of its 54 member states has veto-wielding powers at the United Nations, yet it features prominently in most of the decisions taken by this world body!

But this is a topic for another day.

Back to Rwanda’s current status at the UNSC: The country’s ascendency to the rotational one-month presidency (based of alphabetical order) of the Council could not have come at a better time. This week, Rwandans will, for the ninetieth time, commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed a million innocent lives – right under the UN’s noses.

The country’s delegation at the United Nations, led by the Permanent Representative and State Minister for Cooperation, Eugène-Richard Gasana, will be keen to showcase Rwanda’s emergence from a state of hopelessness to a country that’s proudly partaking in global efforts towards peaceful coexistence, tolerance as well as human development journey.

Rwanda’s election to the UN Security Council last October was not without hurdles to say the least.

Needless to say, a group of human rights activists-cum-propagandists, which has made it its business to attack Rwanda at every slightest opportunity, teamed up with another set of self-styled experts on the Great Lakes region with a score to settle with Rwanda, to tarnish the country’s image (of course with the help of some UN bureaucrats) – with regard to the ongoing DRC crisis – ahead of the crucial vote.

Report after report were calculatedly leaked to the media, Rwanda’s rebuttal to the allegations, hailed by many as satisfactory, was ignored by the mainstream western media and, Kigali, was declared guilty without any court hearing!

But, as if to confirm that these anti-Rwandan sentiments are concentrated among a few individuals, including officials of a few governments, who have personal axes to grind, Rwanda was overwhelmingly elected to the UNSC during the October 18 secret ballot. It garnered 148 votes out of a possible 193 votes, more than the required two thirds from the countries present.

After Rwanda joined the 15-member Security Council, for a two-year term, the country’s leaders were eager to state that Rwanda was not joining the group as a revolutionary, rather as member committed to playing a positive role towards achieving the Council’s mission.

Rwanda, despite her acrimonious relationship with the UN, is an active participant in several UN initiatives.

Besides its role as the world’s sixth largest contributor of peacekeepers, Rwanda, through President Paul Kagame, is playing a major role in the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals, and the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, around the world.

No doubt the country’s approach to global issues has largely been shaped by her experience during and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

This explains why Kigali has not minced words in situations where ordinary citizens elsewhere are faced with potential destruction at the hands of their regimes – on a continent where leaders often cover up or at least downplay the sins of their counterparts.

The Rwandan government stood with the Libyan people during the revolution against the Muammar Gaddafi. And last year, it declared its support for the “legitimate aspirations” of the Syrian people.

Yet even as these examples showcase Rwanda’s consistent resolve to play a positive role in the community of nations, you sense misguided suspicion in the corridors of the UN.

Surely, the values Kigali stands for can make the world a better place, and the UN a better organisation.

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