WASHINGTON - Several major U.S. Africa groups and black leaders are calling on the three African governments on the United Nations Security Council to oppose U.S.-led moves toward war against Iraq when the latest resolution is debated this week at U.N. headquarters.
In a letter to the U.S. and U.N. ambassadors from Guinea, Cameroon and Angola, Washington-based Africa Action and TransAfrica Forum, as well as prominent African-American political, labor and entertainment leaders, warn that a war in Iraq "will have devastating economic and social consequences for the most impoverished and most vulnerable citizens and countries throughout the world."
The signers, who include Africa Action's director Salih Booker, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and actor-activist Danny Glover, also said that the global fight against HIV/AIDS should be given a higher priority than Iraq which, at this point, does not present a "real threat to (its) neighbors or other countries."
HIV/AIDS "should be the scourge receiving the attention and resources that have been devoted instead to debating and designing interventions against Iraq," say the letter's signers, who also include TransAfrica's Bill Fletcher, Jr.; the president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, William Lucy; and novelist Walter Mosley.
The United States, Britain and Spain have presented a resolution to the 15-member Security Council that finds Iraq to be in "material breach" of Resolution 1441, approved 15-0 last November, which demands that Baghdad immediately give up or destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction and the missiles that could deliver them or risk "serious consequences," a phrase understood to mean military action.
In order to gain the resolution's approval, which most observers believe is likely to trigger a U.S.-led invasion by the estimated 240,000 troops who have been deployed near Iraq as early as the second half of this month, it must be approved by at least nine Security Council members. In addition, the resolution cannot be vetoed by any of the five permanent Council members - China, France, Russia, the United States and Britain.
At this point, Washington and London are assured of only four votes - their own plus Spain and Bulgaria. The three other permanent members have publicly opposed the resolution. Germany and Syria, which do not have veto power, have also come out against the proposal, leaving six nations that are officially undecided: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, and Pakistan.
In order to win over those six, Britain last week indicated it would amend the pending resolution to give Iraq until March 17 to fully comply with Resolution 1441. At the same time, however, the U.N.'s weapons inspectors reported that Baghdad was being more cooperative and that they could finish their job of establishing whether Iraq was in full compliance within months.
Of the three African countries, Angola, which sells much of its oil to U.S. companies and is in desperate need of economic aid from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, where Washington holds great influence, is considered the most likely to go along with the Bush administration. Guinea, which receives military aid from Washington, is also considered more likely to vote with Washington. Cameroon, on the other hand, is considered a staunch ally of French President Jacques Chirac, so is most likely of the three to vote with France, according to diplomatic observers.
As in every other region, public opinion in the three countries, as in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, is believed to be strongly opposed to a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been outspoken in his opposition to a war for months, while, world-famous Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour announced Friday that he has canceled his seven week, 38-city tour of North America to protest U.S. policy.
Citing recent public-opinion polls in the United States, the signers of the African-American letter said at least 81 percent of black Americans oppose the war.
"As African-American leaders and activists," they wrote, "we urgently call upon your governments to stand firm against the efforts by the United States, Britain and Spain to undermine the work of the United Nations' weapons inspectors now working in Iraq and to initiate a war against Iraq."
While they said they understood their governments are under "considerable pressure" from Washington and London to support a war resolution, "we believe this would be a terrible mistake. The USA and Britain are committed to commencing a war that breaks all international laws and precedent." Ultimately such a war, they add, "will be especially antithetical to the interests of African and Arab peoples, and disastrous for the rest of the world."
Copyright 2003 OneWorld.net