Sudan Upset with US In Its Bid to Join UN Security Council

By Julius Mokaya | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Nairobi ( - Sudan says it will fight tooth-and-nail to win the African seat on the United Nations Security Council in the face of stiff opposition by the United States.

"Our nation and other African countries supporting our bid for a seat at the UN Security Council will remain firm and demand that the wishes of the majority African nations are respected by the international community," Sudan's ambassador to Kenya, Farouq Ali, said here.

He dismissed US opposition as "unwarranted, and an interference with the United Nations rules and regulations."

Sudan has been nominated as the continent's representative on the Council for the next two-year period, beginning after Namibia's term ends in December 2000. A General Assembly vote to fill five seats is expected on October 10.

Washington, which considers the country a state sponsor of terrorism - especially of anti-US terrorist groups - opposes the move.

The US has instead proposed Mauritius, a tiny former British-ruled island in the Indian Ocean, for the seat. Uganda, a country bordering Sudan to the south and which has fought an intermittent border war with Sudan, has openly declared support for the Mauritius bid.

The fact the Islamist regime in Khartoum is subject to United Nations' sanctions should be reason enough to bar Sudan from joining the Security Council, the US has argued.

The Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Sudan in 1996 to compel it to hand over gunmen who tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia.

But Egypt is now backing Sudan's application while the Organization of African Unity believes any state getting enough popular support should get the seat, according to an official at the OAU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Individual [African] states will take their own stand," said the official, who asked not to be named. "At the end of the day they will vote individually, depending what they stand to gain."

Other analysts agreed that nations would ultimately vote in what they see as their national interests.

"Like the US, it is a question of interests," said University of Nairobi political professor Tom Ondicho. "Most African nations are asking themselves what they stand to gain by supporting Sudan or the US.

"It is clear, however, that most of them might side with the US because of the many economic benefits they are likely to get by siding with Washington," Ondicho added.

Sudan circulated a memo to UN missions asking whether the US spoke on behalf of Africa and was going to be allowed to decide for Africa.

An Arab diplomat in Nairobi, who did not want to be identified, said of the dispute: "Africa is not a US colony and should not be dictated to by the Clinton administration."

A US embassy official in Nairobi declined to comment on the matter other than saying: "Our duty is to reinforce the stand taken by the US government."

The American embassy in Nairobi has handled most Sudanese affairs since Washington closed its mission in Khartoum in 1996 "due to concerns regarding the Sudanese government's ability to adequately ensure the safety of US officials."

Earlier, the embassy was closed for five years after Sudan severed diplomatic ties with the United States following the Israeli Six Day War. In 1974, US Ambassador Cleo Noel was murdered by PLO terrorists during a hostage siege at the embassy.

In August 1998, the US bombed a chemical factory in Khartoum, claiming it was being used to manufacture chemical weapons and was linked to fugitive Muslim terrorist Osama bin Laden. Sudan denied the claims.

Washington blames bin Laden for the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania earlier that month.

The Sudanese government also has been accused of violating human rights, especially against the southern Christians and animist groups who have waged a 17-year civil war for autonomy that has cost over 2 million lives.

A strong anti-slavery movement in the US has sought to have western governments pressure Khartoum over a campaign of slavery being waged against Sudanese southerners by Muslims, allegedly backed by the government.