Everyone loves a showdown especially when one gets to watch without being directly involved in the grueling action. You know, the kind of thrill you got in your younger years when you watched WWF wrestling. Surely, you never quite fancied facing off with Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker, but you loved it when two fighters took each other on in the ring. Over the past few years the United Nations annual meetings in New York has been offering one-sided verbal battles where certain maligned national leaders choose to lash out at their perceived foes and detractors, very often in quite dramatic fashions.
Every year world leaders gather in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. This is a meeting of heads of states from the member states of the United Nations, and it seeks to address the pressing issues facing the world at any given time. This year’s meeting took place last week and, the maintenance of world security was expected to take center stage as usual. (On paper, that is.)
At the 2006 meeting Venezuela President Hugo Chavez went on a tirade against former US President George Bush, describing him as a “swashbuckling cowboy.” President Chavez, who took the podium right after President Bush did, made a sign of the cross three and declared that he could smell sulfur in the podium area and that President Bush as “El Diablo” (the devil in Spanish). In a move that reeked of political showmanship, President Chavez then visited Harlem the next day, where he launched a program to provide poor American families in that area with Venezuela-subsidized oil to heat their homes. Not wanting President Chavez to bask in the limelight all by himself, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when his turn to speak came, also attacked the US government for, in his opinion, meddling in the affairs of other nations.
This year’s meeting was no different from 2006’s. Even before the actual meeting in Manhattan began, Libyan leader, Colonel Qadhafi stirred controversy in suburban New York by erecting a huge Bedouin-styyle tent on a property he had rented from Donald Trump. NY state officials said the structure was a violation of codes. The media backlash that Qadhafi’s makeshift home received also contributed to its immediate removal.
But Qadhafi was not finished yet. In his first ever UN address, delivered right after President Obama had given his, President Qadhafi spent the first few minutes of his speech praising President Obama, calling him “our son” (because of Obama’s African roots) and “my son” (which some people found offensive), and even said he wished Obama would be President forever. Things got bizarre when Qadhafi attacked the UN Security Council, calling it a “Terror Council” because he felt its members bullied smaller nations. In the speech, which lasted one-and-a-half hours (six times over the allotted time of fifteen minutes), Colonel Qadhafi rambled through a confusing range of subjects which ranged from a call to investigate the assassinations of the President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr., to a suggestion that the UN meeting be moved from New York to either India or China to save the leaders the hassle of jetlags and security issues they endured whenever they traveled to America.
It is interesting to note that this was the very first time that Qadhafi was attending the New York meeting, despite having been Libya’s leader for over forty years. Previously, he had been unable to attend due to sanctions imposed on Libya. Looking past the frivolous nature of the speech, I believe Colonel Qadhafi could have achieved more with this speech; as the current President of the African Union, Qadhafi should have highlighted the challenges that the continent is facing in the current economic climate. With Western leaders presenting a united front in tackling their nations’ economic problems, this UN General Assembly offered Africa and its leaders the opportunity to put forward concrete and well-thought plans on tackling the continent’s problem. Sadly, that chance was not used. Hopefully, in future meetings, our leaders would take advantage and collaborate with other leaders to find solutions to the continent’s numerous problems, rather than engaging in verbal saber rattling.