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At End of AU Meeting, UK Explanation of Vote Calls it Hurried, Genocide Subtext

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12, update Jan 13 -- At the end of a day of speeches about the UN Security Council improving its work with the African Union, a resolution was adopted 15-0 but the United Kingdom ended with an "explanation of vote."

  UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham said

"We regret that the hurried manner in which this text was negotiated has left some potential ambiguities... In those instances where we consider co-ordination to be appropriate, this can only occur in the context of the primacy of the Security Council regarding the maintenance of international peace and security."

  US Ambassador Susan Rice had said much the same thing, using the Abbott and Costello line "who's on first?" But the US did not make any explanation of vote. (Nor would it explain why not.)

  When Inner City Press asked South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane what she made of the explanation of vote, she replied diplomatically that the AU is happy to work with the United Kingdom. Later one well placed Council member snarked to Inner City Press, if the UK didn't like the resolution they should have had the courage to abstain. But they didn't dare, since it was on the AU.

  It's said, in response to the allegation that the resolution was "hurried," that the UK had more input than any other delegation. Inner City Press witnessed near interminable consultations on the resolution, at the experts' and then DPR level. So why did the UK make the explanation of vote?

A close observer of the Council and the UK mission said, when the UK wants to fight, they sent Philip [Parham, the DPR] and not Mark [Lyall Grant, the Permanent Representative.]

  Continued inquiry into the substance find that the UK wanted (or could have accepted) more specific references in the resolution to war crimes and genocide, that it would welcome working with the AU to combat or prevent these.

  On this issue, one Security Council source said,

"It was the US who raised the idea of including a reference to UN/AU cooperation Prevention of Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, and we and others supported. Fourteen members of the Council could have been accepted it, so South Africa said that they’d refer back to Pretoria. But they never included it in any draft. Nor any compromises suggested, such as 'encourages the UN to cooperate with the AU and other regional organisations to ensure the prevention of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.' It seemed that someone in Pretoria had a problem with including the words 'genocide' and 'African Union' in the same paragraph. But who could really be against working together to prevent it?”

(c) UN Photo
Parham previously in the Council, it's not easy being President of the UNSC

 Was it really the US, and if so why didn't the US join in an explanation of vote? A request to the US Mission at deadline for comment was not responded to. One response to the above was that the resolution was not about these atrocities; another afterward was what about atrocities in Europe like Srebrenica?

 This is how arguments are made in or around the Security Council.

Update: on January 13, South African Deputy Permanent Representative Doctor Mashabane told Inner City Press, "You can put this on the record, I even said to the Brits, tell us an English way other than 'coordination,' we don't want to say exchange views or information." He also praised a paragraph proposed by the UK, opposed by the US. Then the UK did its explanation of vote... And so it goes at the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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