Sept. 25, United States President Donald Trump told the 193-member United Nations General Assembly that the American economy was “booming like never before” and that his administration accomplished more in less than two years than almost any other American administration.
Well, the 45th president received a round of laughter from some of the heads of state and delegates in the audience. Trump told the gathering the U.S. was standing up for the world, but never acknowledged Africa, which has the largest voting bloc (53 states) at the world body, and more half of the 15-member U.N. Security Council workload is taken up by issues on the continent.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the current African Union chairperson, speaking after Trump warned delegates that their perspective of Africa must change.
During his address, Kagame recounted some recent positive developments: the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, cessation of hostilities among nations in Africa and the progress made by Zimbabwe to deal with political and economic challenges. Citing these points, he asked U.N. delegates and other world leaders to change their views of Africa.
“The trend on our continent is toward closer and more productive cooperation both through the African Union and our regional economic communities,” Kagame said.
The theme for the 73rd U.N. General Assembly general debate is “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”
According to CNN and other observers, the U.S. president was having none of the talk of getting along. For him, it is about independence and sovereignty. “That is why America will choose independence and cooperation over global governance [and] control,” Trump said. “I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live, work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”
Some analysts say for African leaders it comes down to one thing: Trump’s unilateralist approach or the world’s call for multilateralism. Some observers want to see more engagement from Africa through the lens of multilateralism.
“For sure Africa is not winning in many of the multilateralism discussions largely because of lack of unity on the continent and in the Diaspora and because many of Africa’s leaders are corrupt and easily manipulated,” Melvin Foote, president of the Washington, DC-based Constituency for Africa said in an email message to the AmNews.
Two African leaders addressed the several issues of multilateralism that are in play on the continent. “Fighting corruption or resolving international conflicts, crises and wars; defeating terrorism and piracy; curbing arms trafficking and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which fuel those conflicts—particularly in Africa—stemming irregular migration by addressing it’s root causes, and many other challenges we are faced with today can only be addressed through multilateral cooperation and concerned action.” stated President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his address.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa talked about how Africa would be able to go forward through trade. “We must resist any and all efforts to undermine the multilateral approach to international trade which is essential to the promotion of stability and predictability in the global economy,” he said.
The General Assembly is one of six main organs of the U.N., the only one in which member states have equal representation—one nation one vote.