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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 26th September 2019

Assonance and dissonance at the UN

Blue Lines

The opening of the UN General Assembly this week brought out some unlikely commonalities. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson both used their speeches to the assembly to rail against tech companies. 'They cannot be allowed to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, and xenophobic messages inciting communities against each other,' said Buhari. Johnson, distracted by defeat in London's Supreme Court, stated that 'digital authoritarianism is not alas the stuff of dystopian future but of an emerging reality.'

Buhari was the second African leader to speak to the UN General Assembly on the opening day, following Egypt's Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who called for international intervention in Libya but failed to mention the violent suppression of protests in Cairo. Recent reports suggest that Egyptian security is working with its Gulf allies and Russian security contractors in support of Khalifa Haftar, who has been laying siege to Tripoli.

Outside the auditorium, Sisi offered his good offices to encourage a rapprochement between Kenya and Somalia. Officials from the United States, Italy and Ethiopia joined a special meeting on 25 September on policy towards Somalia ahead of next year's elections. Despite its deepening security problems, Ethiopia is the biggest contributor of troops, policy and civil staff to UN peacekeeping missions: sending over 7,000 compared to 34 from the US, according to Foreign Policy magazine.