The African Union (AU) has been slow in coming out with a collective decision on who gets Africa's permanent seat (or seats) at the UN Security Council (UNSC). Senegal has already asked for two seats for Africa: one permanent and the other a non-permanent revolving seat, in an obvious attempt to forestall bitter divisions among countries jostling to take Africa's position.
Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, speaking at the UN General Assembly in September, said his country was more than qualified for a UNSC seat on the basis of the criterion advanced by the other interested countries.
Obasanjo returned to the issue in Tokyo in November at the Japanese-African summit. "Nigeria, having felt qualified, would be more than willing to represent Africa whose many issues have for decades preoccupied the UN," he said. Interestingly, Japan is also hoping for a permanent seat on the Council.
Three African countries--Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria--are the likely contenders for Africa's slot. Already, Zambia, acting as proxy at the UN General Assembly, has publicly given its backing to South Africa. The race is expected to be fierce, and Zambia's early warning is indicative of the camps which AU member states are likely to fall into.
Lessons can be learned from the horse-trading that influenced Africa's bid to host the 2010 Football World Cup, which finally went to South Africa. There were strange alliances which previously had been hard to imagine. Senegal backed Morocco, with President Abdoulaye Wade flying from the capital Dakar to the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, and personally pitching his country's tent on Morocco's side of the fence. If this trend is repeated, then South Africa can kiss goodbye to Senegal's support before the race even starts.
In fact, the campaign has already begun--starting unexpectedly in the most unusual forum in Accra, Ghana, at the recent ECOWAS meeting on re-appraising conflict resolution mechanisms. The new UNSC seats were not on the agenda but discussions veered to the subject due to intense interest among delegates.
One member of the South...