An Open Letter to The UN: Please Show Some Teeth

Dear United Nations

As a child and teenager, I saw the UN as a respected organization leading the way in creating peace where conflicts are ongoing. As an Indonesian, I used to feel a great sense of pride whenever I read the news that Indonesia was once again part of the UN peacekeeping troops.

Not anymore. Since its involvement in executing a referendum that brought independence to Timor Leste in 1999, I have not seen the UN taking a firm stand against any human rights abuse done by malicious governments. It could have taken a much stronger stand against Burma other than “holding talks” with the current government who definitely has no interest even in rescuing its own people from disaster, hunger and water-borne diseases, let alone in honoring the 1990 election result that clearly showed Aung San Suu Kyi’s party as the winner.

The fact that the UN has not taken any firm stand against Robert Mugabe beyond making statements is also downright ridiculous. As recently as 2007, Zimbabwe was still elected as head of UN’s main environment body – after Mugabe brought the country down from a top-notch farming region to a nation where a third of its population are dependent on international food aid.

In return for Mugabe’s and ZANU-PF’s constant torture and abuse at MDC party members and voters, the UN has done nothing more than “sending a senior UN political envoy to talk with President Robert Mugabe about reducing political tensions ahead of the run-off round of the presidential election later this month.” (source: UN News Release dated 17 June 2008).

The result of this UN “visit” ?? As of 22 June 2008, Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC pulled out of run-off presidential election due to intense intimidation and deadly violence against their members and voters (source: CNN). Tsvangirai even had to seek refuge in the Dutch embassy to save his life!

According to Mugabe’s government, Tsvangirai’s pullout meant that Mugabe will be named the election winner. Regardless of the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC has won parliamentary election, plus won the first round of presidential election, albeit by a small margin.

UN’s response? Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that this development is “… deeply distressing and does not bode well for democracy for the Southern African region.” (source: He also said that the UN special envoy continues to stay in the region to try work it out. That’s it.

As if a visit and some talks are sufficient to make a power-obsessed madman to abdicate …

No peacekeeping troops to prevent torture killing and further safeguard the lives of the people who voted under duress. No election observers either. The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network – the group consisting of 38 independent organizations, said they could not conduct electoral education to the public because no officer has received accreditation from Mugabe’s government.

Even foreign diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe are being harassed for investigating and reporting claims of electoral abuse (source:

And still nothing more than sending a special envoy and making some public statements.

How many more people should die of torture killing, of wars and hunger before the UN start showing some real teeth?

For me personally, whether or not the UN take a firm stand against Zimbabwe and other nations in conflict  is simply about winning back my respect towards the organization.

But for the millions of people out there in Zimbabwe, Myanmar, DR Congo, Timor Leste, Tibet and who knows where else, UN’s presence and firm stand against abuse of human rights and power can be a matter of life and death.

So, Sirs and Madams of the UN, please do not take this mandate lightly …. these people await your action beyond “sending a special envoy to shake hands and talk.”


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