UNITED NATIONS — Five countries have won two-year terms on the 15-member U.N. Security Council, including one potentially controversial country - Rwanda.
Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Rwanda and South Korea won non-permanent seats in the vote by the U.N. General Assembly. They will replace outgoing members Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa.
Eight countries competed for the five open seats, which are allocated regionally.
The most hotly contested seats were for Asia-Pacific and the group known as Western European and Others. In the first group, Bhutan, Cambodia and the Republic of Korea competed for the one available seat. Of the three, only South Korea has served on the Security Council before, in the 1990s. South Korea won in the second round.
Among the Western European and Others group, Australia, Finland and Luxembourg competed for two available seats. Australia won easily in the first round, garnering 140 votes.
In the second round, Luxembourg pulled off what some diplomats thought was a surprising victory for the tiny country of a half million people, handily beating Finland 131 votes to 62.
There were two uncontested seats, one for the Latin America and Caribbean group, which decided in advance to field Argentina as their candidate, and the other for Africa, which put forward Rwanda. Both countries were still required to win a two-thirds majority of votes and they did.
However, Rwanda’s win was overshadowed by a report earlier this week by Reuters news agency, citing a leaked U.N. experts report accusing Rwanda of giving military support to rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The DRC delegation openly objected before the vote to Rwanda joining the council.
Chargé d’Affaires Charlotte Malenga said beyond Rwanda’s destabilizing role in her country, Rwanda had become a safe haven for criminals operating in the eastern part of the DRC who are being sought by international justice.
New York University political analyst Richard Gowan notes that Rwanda has consistently denied accusations of meddling in the DRC, but once it joins the Security Council it may find itself under increased pressure from the United States and other Western powers and it will be harder to hide its activities.
“I think it could potentially have a positive effect. Rwanda is going to continue to play a divisive role in the Congo, but I think it will want to avoid really damaging its relations at the U.N. by acting as a spoiler on the Security Council," said Gowan.
Most new members chose to savor their victories rather than give details about what they hope to accomplish in the Security Council, with Australia’s foreign minister declaring that his country's win is the world saying “we like Australia” and what it stands for.
NYU’s Richard Gowan was downbeat, however, on the impact the new members will have inside the 15-member council.
“The reality is in the Security Council at the moment, that really China, Russia and the U.S. are the powers that make all the decisions and whoever is elected is not really going to be able to change that reality," he said.
The new council members will begin their terms on January first. They will join the five permanent council members - China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States - and five other non-permanent members - Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo.