"Yet, if Africa is going to convince the world that it deserves a place at the top table, its leaders, through the African Union, are going to have to put their money where their mouths are. We have been far too tolerant of our tyrants, and of our many conflicts."
AU must up its game so Africa can earn top UN seat
Johannesburg: International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane's call for the United Nations to be reformed to make it more representative deserves to be supported. Nkoana-Mashabane argued, at a meeting of G20 Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Mexico this week, that the UN's powerful Security Council, in particular, must become more representative of the international community, both in its composition and its decision-making processes.
She pointed out that Africa, which makes up a sizeable proportion of the UN's overall membership, must be represented as a permanent member of the Security Council, adding that this would enhance its legitimacy and effectiveness.
Few fair-minded world leaders could argue with this. For far too long, the permanent seats on the council have been the preserve of the "Big Five" - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.
Incremental reforms in recent years have seen more developing countries take up non-permanent seats on the council on a revolving basis - South Africa is currently serving its second term - but a permanent seat remains an elusive quest for the emerging powerhouses of the new world order.
Yet, if Africa is going to convince the world that it deserves a place at the top table, its leaders, through the African Union, are going to have to put their money where their mouths are. We have been far too tolerant of our tyrants, and of our many conflicts.
But it is also true that the AU and other continental bodies have, of late, started to show their mettle, even if they still appear to do so selectively. They stood up to Laurent Gbagbo when he attempted to hold on to power in Ivory Coast despite losing an election, quickly imposed sanctions on the military junta that staged a coup in Mali and have thrown the book at Sudan and South Sudan when the neighbours appeared on the brink of war.
The world will be forced to listen when the AU starts giving all its member states that are patently undemocratic equal treatment.
* Editorial comment in Times Live, 4 April 2012