President Lazarus Chakwera —who won Malawi’s first court-ordered fresh presidential election on June 23— on Thursday took his Tonse philosophy, to the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA75) to promote unity as the session highlighted a lack of unity between UN members, with tensions particularly apparent between the US and China.
The summit was forced online this year due to the pandemic and the 14-day quarantine regulations in New York City.
Delivering his maiden address to Unga virtually from Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, the Malawi leader appealed for unity among world powers and the least developed nations to end poverty and economic challenges facing the third world, fight the virus pandemic and mitigate the impact of climate change, among others.
Directing his address to the sitting president of 75th Unga Volkan Bozkir, Chakwera delved on local politics and the recent transition of power and the hopes of his Tonse Allaince administration and its key ethos of servant leadership and Tonse philosophy.
He said: “The smooth transition of power between me and my predecessor has fostered a peaceful environment and sustained our billing as the Warm Heart of Africa, which I have since vowed to govern by servant leadership and a philosophy called ‘Tonse’, meaning ‘all of us’.”
Bozkir, whom Malawi’s sixth president congratulated for his ascendancy to the presidency of the UN body, replaced Nigeria’s permanent representative to the UN Tijani Muhammad-Bande.
US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and a suite of strongmen including China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Russia’s Vladimir Putin all spoke early on Tuesday.
Trump praised his own handling of the pandemic in the US, and touted his role in facilitating peace agreements between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel, saying that more peace agreements would be coming shortly.
He used part of his time to attack China, calling the coronavirus the “China virus” and urging the UN to hold Beijing accountable for the pandemic. He accused Beijing of “allowing flights to leave China and infect the world” and of “virtually controlling” the World Health Organization.
WHO Communications director Gabby Stern responded on Twitter, writing, “@WHO has 194 Member States; no one gov’t controls us.”
In a direct challenge to multilateralism, the US President also said global leaders should each put their own countries first. “For decades the same tired voices proposed the same failed solutions pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people, but only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation,” Trump said.
He added, “As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That’s okay. That’s what you should be doing.”
Speaking right after President Xi’s pre-recorded message, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jan rejected Trump’s “baseless accusations.” Later at the Chinese Mission in New York, he described the US handing of the pandemic as “a complete failure” and said that China would formally reply to Trump’s accusations later in the week.
Xi, for his part, pointedly expressed his country’s commitment to pursuing “open and inclusive development,” to building an open world economy, and upholding the multilateral trading regime “with the WTO as the cornerstone.”
“We should say no to unilateralism and protectionism,” Xi said.
Xi also announced that China aims to see CO2 emissions “peak” before 2030, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
In contrast to Trump, Russia’s Putin praised the UN, saying that over the decades it had “been ably fulfilling its mission of protecting peace, promoting sustainable development of the peoples and continents and providing assistance in mitigating local crises.”
“This enormous potential and expertise of the UN is relevant and serves as a solid basis for moving ahead,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro used his message to accuse foreign agents of overhyping fires in the Amazon. Flames are currently raging in the Amazon for a second consecutive year, and deforestation has increased since Bolsonaro took office.
“We are victims of the most brutal misinformation campaign about the Amazon and the Brazilian wetlands,” Bolsonaro said.
Another clash, this time in Europe, took center stage when Turkey’s Erdogan spoke. The Turkish leader called for a regional conference to address tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece, and accused Greece of causing problems in the region. –Additional reporting by CNNFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :