Buhari’s Speech at UNGA

Sunday Trust - - PAGE 3 COMMENT -

On Tues­day last week, Septem­ber 19, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari de­liv­ered a speech on Nige­ria’s be­half at the Gen­eral De­bate of the 72nd ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York. A day be­fore he de­liv­ered it, some mis­chief mak­ers con­cocted and cir­cu­lated a fake “Buhari’s speech” on the so­cial me­dia. Full text of the real speech was later posted by the Pres­i­dency af­ter Buhari de­liv­ered it.

Be­fore Buhari spoke, ex­pec­ta­tions were high in Nige­ria that the pres­i­dent would make many sig­nif­i­cant pro­nounce­ments at the UN given that he chose to per­son­ally travel to New York and ad­dress the Gen­eral Assem­bly af­ter his re­turn from a long med­i­cal leave abroad. There are al­ways many po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity, so­cioe­co­nomic and other con­tentious is­sues on the in­ter­na­tional scene which af­fect Africa and Nige­ria but the pres­i­dent was ex­pected to pay more at­ten­tion to is­sues that af­fect Nige­ria more di­rectly. In that re­spect the speech did not live up to ex­pec­ta­tion be­cause Buhari con­cen­trated on for­eign is­sues.

He be­gan by describing this age as “ex­tra-or­di­nar­ily trou­bled and dan­ger­ous times.” This was an ex­ag­ger­a­tion be­cause Africa, for one, has fewer on­go­ing wars than at any time in the last six decades. They are also of lower in­ten­sity than pre­vi­ous African wars. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Pres­i­dent Buhari itemised what he called “the most sig­nif­i­cant events” of the past year to in­clude “the Iran Nu­clear Deal, the Paris Cli­mate Change Agree­ment and, of grave con­cern, the North Korean nu­clear cri­sis.” These three are no doubt im­por­tant to the peace and pros­per­ity of mankind but for Nige­ria and Africa, is­sues such as Boko Haram, in­sur­gen­cies, in­ter­nal in­se­cu­rity, unchecked flow of weapons from the de­vel­oped world, for­eign med­dling in African af­fairs and the des­per­ate eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion that makes thou­sands of Africans to un­der­take dan­ger­ous mi­gra­tion to Europe through the Sa­hara Desert and Mediter­ranean Sea are of greater im­port.

Af­ter com­mend­ing the UN for its role in help­ing in­no­cent civil­ians caught up in con­flicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as some Euro­pean gov­ern­ments for as­sist­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees, Buhari de­voted a little time to ad­dress Nige­ria’s big­gest se­cu­rity prob­lem, namely Boko Haram. He said, “In an ex­em­plary show of sol­i­dar­ity, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity came to­gether within my own re­gion to as­sist the coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties in the Sa­hel and the Lake Chad re­gions to con­tain the threats posed by Al Qaida and Boko Haram.” He added, “We thank the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for vis­it­ing the coun­tries of the Lake Chad Basin to assess the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion and hu­man­i­tar­ian needs and for pledg­ing as­sis­tance to re­build lives and liveli­hoods.”

This mes­sage was not sharp enough. The whole world is aware of the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Boko Haram, prob­a­bly the dead­li­est in­sur­gent group in the world. Buhari ought to have seized the chance of ad­dress­ing the big­gest of all in­ter­na­tional fo­rums to drive home the cru­el­ties of Boko Haram, its desta­bil­is­ing ef­fect on many Sa­he­lian coun­tries; the need for greater in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to de­feat it, pro­vide re­lief to dis­placed per­sons, re­build de­stroyed towns and com­mu­ni­ties and re­set­tle mil­lions of peo­ple in their homes. Buhari said, “We must col­lec­tively de­vise strate­gies and mo­bilise the re­quired re­sponses to stop flee­ing ISIS fighters from mu­tat­ing and in­fil­trat­ing into the Sa­hel and the Lake Chad Basin, where there are in­suf­fi­cient re­sources and re­sponse ca­pac­ity is weak.” He put it too mildly, be­cause the Western pow­ers’ ill-ad­vised regime change ac­tions in Libya, Syria and Su­dan ended up chan­nelling deadly weapons and de­ter­mined ter­ror­ists into our coun­tries. They there­fore have a huge obli­ga­tion in help­ing us to curb this men­ace, and the pres­i­dent of Nige­ria should not shy away from mak­ing this case force­fully.

A good part of Buhari’s speech was de­voted to con­flict sit­u­a­tions out­side Africa. He said, “New con­flicts should not make us lose fo­cus on on­go­ing un­re­solved old con­flicts. For ex­am­ple, sev­eral UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tions from 1967 on the Mid­dle East cri­sis re­main unim­ple­mented. Mean­while, the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tinian peo­ple and the block­ade of Gaza con­tinue. Ad­di­tion­ally, we are now con­fronted by the des­per­ate hu­man rights and hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tions in Ye­men and most trag­i­cally in the Rakhine State of Myan­mar.” He de­scribed the Myan­mar cri­sis as “very rem­i­nis­cent of what hap­pened in Bos­nia in 1995 and in Rwanda in 1994.”

Buhari went even fur­ther with re­spect to the on­go­ing con­fronta­tion be­tween North Korea and the United States over the for­mer’s mis­sile tests. He said, “The most press­ing threat to in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity to­day is the ac­cel­er­ated nu­clear weapons de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme by North Korea. Since the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis of 1962, we have never come so close to the threat of nu­clear war as we have now. All nec­es­sary pres­sure and diplo­matic ef­forts must be brought to bear on North Korea to ac­cept peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis.” He pro­posed “a strong UN del­e­ga­tion to ur­gently en­gage the North Korean Leader. The del­e­ga­tion, led by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, should in­clude mem­bers from all the re­gions.” It is doubt­ful if a del­e­ga­tion that in­cludes Africans, Arabs or In­di­ans would cre­ate any im­pres­sion on Kim Jong Un, given what we see from afar of the North Korean supreme leader.

Pres­i­dent Buhari also missed a chance to say some­thing about press­ing in­ter­nal is­sues in Nige­ria. This would have been most help­ful be­cause some dis­grun­tled groups of Nige­ri­ans in Amer­ica even mo­bilised to protest against him in New York and At­lanta. Given that some de­ter­mined pro­pa­gan­dists are sell­ing the lie to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity about al­leged marginal­i­sa­tion of some re­gions and al­leged mil­i­tary bru­tal­ity against dis­si­dent groups, a few words of clar­i­fi­ca­tion would have been very help­ful.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari

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