News / Africa

Controversial Ugandan Set to Lead UNGA

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Ugandan counterpart Sam Kutesa, Moscow, May 12, 2014.
FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes Ugandan counterpart Sam Kutesa, Moscow, May 12, 2014.
Margaret Besheer
The U.N. General Assembly Wednesday is expected to elect by acclamation the foreign minister of Uganda as president of its 69th session.

Sam Kutesa has been Uganda's foreign minister on and off since 2005, under long-time president Yoweri Museveni. He most recently garnered international attention for defending the Ugandan government’s harsh anti-homosexuality law that the president signed in February.

In the past, Kutesa has survived political censure by the Ugandan parliament following a corruption scandal, though no formal charges were brought against him.

However, questions have been raised about a company he once chaired and is believed to still own shares in, Entebbe Handling Services, or ENHAS, which has contracts with at least one U.N. peacekeeping mission in Africa.

A U.N. spokesperson said the organization is trying to ascertain its current relationship with ENHAS, and whether it presents a conflict of interest.

According to the U.N.’s procurement website, the company has been a registered vendor with it since June 2006.

Calls to revoke Kutesa's US visa

Kutesa’s candidacy has inspired a petition on Change.org, a website that hosts public petitions, garnering more than 11,000 signatures.

Milton Allimadi, editor and publisher of the Black Star News website, started the petition, which calls on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke Kutesa’s visa so he cannot come to New York.

“It is one of the quickest ways to stop Mr. Kutesa from becoming the president of the U.N. General Assembly," Allimadi said. "I think certainly the recent precedent was when the U.S. decided to not provide a visa for the Iranian-designated new Permanent Representative to the United Nations.”

In that case, the Iranian diplomat had been implicated in the 1979 hostile takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis. The United States rarely invokes its right as host country to withhold a diplomat’s visa.

US, UN keep distance

Washington has made no move to block Kutesa’s entry. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said recently that the choice of the Ugandan to preside over the General Assembly is up to member states, specifically the African regional group whose turn it is this year to put forth a candidate.

“Members of regional groups are the ones who select the leader," Harf said. "So in terms of being part of the selection process we, of course, we're not. No matter who is president of the General Assembly, we will continue standing up, defending LGBT [gay] rights at the U.N.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric echoed the sentiment, noting that the president of the General Assembly is not a U.N. staff position.

“The president of the General Assembly is chosen by the member states," Dujarric said. "It is entirely a decision of the General Assembly. It is not the secretary-general’s decision. He has no input into that process.”

Kutesa not first controversial candidate

Kutesa would not be the first controversial candidate to lead the General Assembly. During his assembly presidency, in January 2013, former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic outraged Bosnian groups and some member states after he had a song played during a U.N. event that was associated with massacres during the Balkan wars.

In 2008, Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest and former foreign minister under Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government, headed the body and attracted criticism for some of his statements, particularly about the U.S. and Israel.

Allimadi says Kutesa is not the best candidate Africa has to offer and urged him to withdraw his candidacy.

“The right thing to do would be for Mr. Kutesa to just bow out and the African continent would still have the opportunity to have another candidate take this position," he said. "Africa has many stellar potential candidates.”

Barring that unlikely outcome, Kutesa will be proclaimed president of the 69th session of the General Assembly on Wednesday and take up his duties in September.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid