US's bias on Boutros-Ghali

THE United States’s case against Boutros Boutros-Ghali has never been entirely clear. He is said not to have been sufficiently vigorous during his secretary generalship in reforming the United Nations. He is said to have been ineffective in marshalling the world to deal with the succession of particularly searing tragedies that arose during his time in office: Somalia, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Rwanda.

Yet the US is alone in holding Boutros-Ghali personally responsible for what reflects the divisions and weaknesses of international co-operation and action rather than the failings of one individual. As a vote in the Security Council this week showed, everyone else believes that Boutros-Ghali has, in the words of Britain’s representative, done a “good, conscientious job” and deserves a second term of office.

The reason for Washington’s opposition can be traced rather to domestic US politics: the conservative majority in Congress, characterised by an insular outlook, is suspicious of the internationalism of the UN and resentful of a world body in which even the lowliest of nations can stand up and question US hegemony. Nor, of course, does the UN do itself much good with its collective failures and the image which it projects of a gravy train out of control. But, again, it is both unfair and wrong to put all the UN’s sins, both imagined and real, at Boutros-Ghali’s door.

The lingering hope that President Bill Clinton would use his re-election to defy Congress and support the secretary general has been dashed. US officials now say that ditching Boutros-Ghali might encourage Congress to pay the nearly $1,5-billion in back dues which Washington owes. That the US is in debt to such an extent, and is the cause of so much of the UN’s financial difficulties, is a disgraceful commentary on claims by that country’s leaders to moral leadership in the world.

The US opposition to Boutros-Ghali is unlikely to go away and deadlock looms. At least Washington is sufficiently ashamed about its stand to promise Africa that it can choose the next incumbent. Our continent has the chance to contribute to world progress by selecting one of the number of talented candidates who are on offer.

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