EDITORIAL COMMENT: UNWTO: Africa speak with one voice

WE salute the African Union for stepping up to the plate to rein in the Seychelles after the island nation went against the AU decision to field a sole candidate for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general elections that will be held in Madrid, Spain, today. The UNWTO executive committee convenes to choose a new secretary-general to succeed the outgoing Taleb Rifai who has served his constitutional two terms.

Five candidates namely Dr Walter Mzembi (Africa), Brazil’s Marcio Favilla, Colombia’s Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, Zurab Pololikashvili of Georgia and Young-shim Dho of South Korea are vying for the SG post.

We hope the Seychelles decision to field Allain St Ange, who was running a parallel campaign, did not do much damage to Dr Mzembi’s chances, but be that as it may, his timely withdrawal will not split the African vote in favour of any of the other four candidates given that a candidate needs to garner at least 17 of the 33 executive council votes on offer.

Africa has 10 executive council votes, Europe 10, the Americas five votes, South Asia and the Pacific five votes and the Middle East three votes.

With the withdrawal of Seychelles it means theoretically, Dr Mzembi starts the race with 10 votes in the bag which puts him in good stead to land the post for Africa for the very first time in the 42 year history of the UNWTO.

We would like to believe Africa will be united in this endeavour because history has shown us we Africans can be our own worst enemies on the global stage.

Our minds are drawn here to the year 2005 during elections for the presidency of the African Development Bank.

There were five candidates — Olabisi Ogunjobi (Nigeria); Kingsley Amoako (Ghana); Simba Makoni (Zimbabwe); Donald Kaberuka (Rwanda); Oye-Mba (Gabon) and Theodore Nkodo (Cameroon) from the initial six following the withdrawal of Egyptian candidate Ismail Hassan before the poll in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

In the run-up to voting day, Western powers made it clear they were against Dr Makoni’s candidature despite the fact that analysts were agreed that he was the clear favourite.

Though the AfDB election was deemed a test for Africa’s maturity, the continent let itself down by allowing the US to sway the poll in favour of Donald Kaberuka despite clear evidence that they wanted him as their point man in an essentially African institution.

Even Africa’s calls for UNSC reform have been stalled by the behaviour of some African countries that have cut secret deals with other regions despite the fact that the continent has a common position for UNSC reform, the Ezulwini Consensus that advocates at least two permanent seats with veto powers, and five non-permanent seats for Africa.

Despite this common position, the likes of Nigeria almost mortgaged Africa’s seats through secret deals entered into with the Group of Four namely Brazil, Germany, Japan and India that also want permanent seats. Nigeria claimed Africa was ready to go into the UN without the veto.

We hope the ghosts of Abuja will not rear their ugly heads in Madrid.

Africa should not see the UNWTO election as just another poll especially in light of the continent’s drive for a reform of the UN system.

The UNWTO is one of the 17 specialised agencies of the United Nations and today’s election offers Africa the perfect opportunity to show the world that Africans are serious about having key roles in the UN system.

A massive show of unity behind Dr Mzembi will send the requisite message to the rest of the world that Africa has come of age and can speak with one voice.

The journey of a thousand miles, it is said, begins with a single step. Similarly Africa’s fight for UNSC reform begins with landing the UNWTO top post.

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