U.N. admits Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga
UNITED NATIONS (AP) The United Nations admitted three new members Tuesday, adding the South Pacific island nations of Nauru, Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga to its ranks at the start of the 1999-2000 session of the General Assembly.
The General Assembly also inaugurated its new president, Namibian Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, who used his first speech to highlight the colonial struggle of Africa and call for an apology from its "invaders and slavetraders."
"The horrors of slavery and destruction wrought upon Africa and it's people cannot be forgotten," Gurirab told the assembly, which now comprises 188 members. "Now is the time for reconciliation and healing."
The message had particular resonance in the General Assembly hall, as many recalled Gurirab's efforts a decade ago at the United Nations to bring about independence for Namibia after 75 years of South African rule.
Gurirab was the U.N. observer and foreign secretary of the South-West Africa People's Organization, which fought South Africa for independence and won Namibia's first elections in 1989.
"It is perhaps a fortuitous but fitting coincidence of history that, at the century's end, both the secretary general of the United Nations and the president of the General Assembly are sons of Africa," he said. "The two of us represent those heroic struggles and the final triumph of the human spirit."
Aside from Gurirab's formal inauguration and the unanimous admission of the three new members, the assembly took care of procedural business on Tuesday, electing committee chairs and assembly vice presidents.
The 54th session will get under way in earnest next Monday, when leaders from all over the world come to U.N. headquarters to deliver speeches on matters most pressing to them.
Small island states will get special attention during a two-day conference in the middle of the two-week debate in which they are expected to urge greater efforts to address trade preferences and climate change.