Japan says it will fight for reforms at the United Nations to ensure Africa gets a permanent seat on the Security Council.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the unprecedented political pledge as he opened the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad VI) in Nairobi, when he argued such a seat will help the continent achieve global bargaining power.
“The enormous continent of Africa has given no permanent member to the United Nations Security Council. Agenda 2063 states clearly that by 2023, it will rectify this situation,” he said referring to a vision document by the African Union that was launched in 2013 in Addis Ababa to help develop Africa by 2063.
“Please accept my complete support on this point.”
The UN Security Council is the body within the UN that is charged with maintaining international peace and security.
It is the most powerful organ, charged with admitting new members to the UN and can approve any changes to the UN Charter, the formative law for the United Nations.
But Africa has argued that its membership of five permanent members and ten non-permanent members does not reflect the current global politics.
The five: Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and the USA enjoy the power of the veto.
Veto power means that it can stop a key decision on international security by voting no.
Japan’s announcement signals intent to checkmate China, a member of the UN Security Council, but with whom China has had bitter disputes over islands in the East China Sea.
But there are other countries in other regions such as Germany, India and Brazil who feel they should join the P5, owing to their influence in today’s international politics.
The African continent, despite being the recipient of most declarations on peace and security, only has non-permanent members who cannot influence substantial decisions.
Last year, Kenya led the lobbying for the Africa Common Position, a decision reached by the African Union Assembly in 2005 at the 70th anniversary of the UN General Assembly without success.
Kenya is a member of the Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government (C10) which was established following the declaration by the AU to demand reforms within the AU.
The C10 members include Algeria, Libya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.
Kenya and Equatorial Guinea were assigned the role of selling the reform idea to the P5 members.
Kenya is eying to take up one of the five non-permanent seats that are often given to the Africa region.
It has sat on the Security Council twice before, in 1973 and 1997, but these positions are mostly useful only if a decision has been backed by the P5.
African countries accuse the P5 of being undemocratic and using the Security Council to safeguard their interests.
In 2012 and 2013, Kenya was bitter after its two attempts to have cases facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at the International Criminal Court deferred failed following U.S. and U.K decision to abstain from the vote.