World leaders are presently assembled in New York for the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which aims to address global issues under the theme, “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.”
Among the African delegation in attendance includes the oldest presidents like Cameroon’s 85-year-old president Paul Biya and Equatorial Guinea’s 76-year-old president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. The duo have served 39 years and 36 years respectively as heads of state making them the longest-serving in the continent.
These leaders and a dozen others have witnessed the rise, fall and deaths of other prominent African leaders like Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan who will be honoured by the General Assembly for their contribution to world peace.
— Sherwin Bryce-Pease (@sherwiebp) September 24, 2018
Extremely Together and the world is gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today to pay tribute to the late H.E. Kofi Annan, our founder and the Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. pic.twitter.com/jOK2tVMLIz
— Extremely Together (@Xtremely2gether) September 21, 2018
None of the 5% of women heads of state and government at the Summit is from Africa. The last time an African woman was involved in the debate at the United Nations as a head of state was last year when Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was president.
This week, world leaders gather at the UN to find global solutions to global problems. But only 5% of heads of state and government are women. Equal participation in politics is a path to the future we want. https://t.co/trr4BM5D6Z
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 22, 2018
Here are five African leaders who are attending the UNGA for the first time-ever as heads of state and government.
Abiy Ahmed – Ethiopia
This will be Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first participation at the UNGA as head of government after he succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn in March this year.
The 42-year-old leader has since his election improved the country’s democratic space with the successful campaign for unity and reconciliation which has reduced the decades-old tensions in the country and ensured the release of political prisoners.
He is expected to address the General Assembly for the first time in his life on Friday although the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu is representing him currently in New York until his arrival.
George Weah – Liberia
Ex-footballer George Weah will debut at the UN General Assembly this week as Liberian president after his election victory last year succeeding Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Weah went into active politics as a candidate in the 2005 presidential election which he lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In 2011, he joined the race again as a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of Winston Tubman but failed. Weah was later elected as a Senator in 2014.
He later won a landslide election runoff win in December 2017 and was sworn in as president in January.
President Weah will address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 26 to proffer the agenda of Liberia at the global stage, says the Executive Mansion.
Julius Maada Bio – Sierra Leone
Former opposition leader Julius Maada Bio was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s president in April after winning the March election runoff.
It was his second attempt at the presidency as a civilian years after he ruled the country briefly as the head of the military junta. Bio took over from President Ernest Bai Koroma, who served two terms in office.
This is Bio’s debut at the UN General Assembly and he is expected to give a speech this week.
I have arrived in New York for the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. I am here to share our story of a nation reinvigorated, a hope reborn and a dream renewed.
I am proud to represent you all and I am proud to represent the new Zimbabwe pic.twitter.com/R2MNArD72w
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) September 20, 2018
Emmerson Mnangagwa – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa is in New York for his first UN General Assembly as head of state following his election victory in July after succeeded Robert Mugabe who was ousted by the military late last year.
He inherited several problems including a failed economy which have not gotten any better after months in office coupled with the wooing of investors to boost the economy.
Mnangagwa is expected to address the General Assembly this week as he is currently meeting Zimbabwean citizens in the United States to assure them of progress in the country.
Great to meet members of the Zimbabwean diaspora in New York. We truly are one nation, united in our hopes and dreams. We are embarking on a new journey of growth and development. It won’t be easy, but we must traverse it together.
Together we are stronger! pic.twitter.com/2JqQi40qAR
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) September 24, 2018
I have arrived in New York for the 73rd Session of the United Nationals General Assembly, where I will be participating for the first time as President. We have a very busy week ahead and I’m looking forward to rich and fruitful engagement with other world leaders. #UNGA pic.twitter.com/vd2Glr8SBU
— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) September 23, 2018
Cyril Ramaphosa – South Africa
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa took over as head of state and government following the resignation of Jacob Zuma on February 14 this year when he was sworn in as president after parliamentary approval. He was then the leader of the ANC party and Deputy President.
Ramaphosa is busy in New York since he arrived on Sunday as the UN is honouring Nelson Mandela. This is his first participation as the president of South Africa.