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Non-Alignment is not, and has never been Neutrality-Vernon Mwaanga

Veteran politician and former diplomat Vernon Johnson Mwaanga has said when a country chooses non-alignment on matters of global peace and security it should not be confused with neutrality.

Citizens have been debating Zambia’s decision to vote in the United Nations General Assembly that Russia withdraws from attacking Ukraine earlier in March, 2022.

Some Zambians have condemned the government of the Republic of Zambia for voting against Russia arguing that the state should have remained neutral in the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted an important resolution which was voted in, demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine.

141 countries voted for the resolution while 35 states abstained and 5 states voted against it.

In a written statement, Ambassador Mwaanga, the ex-Zambia’s envoy to the Soviet Union, said even though it is undeniable that the non-aligned countries have made significant contributions towards making the world a better place, their position has not necessarily contributed to making the world safer or saner.

“I have been following the local debate about non-alignment and whether it is synonymous with neutrality. I decided to share my own views and facts, which I have extensively written about over the years. When the “like minded” third world countries first met as an informal grouping in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, they decided that they would be non-aligned. This was at the height of the cold war between the East and the West. The West described this decision as meaning “neutrality”. The East was suspicious of this new force of non-aligned nations. At their first formal meeting of non-aligned nations held in Belgrade in the then Yugoslavia( now Serbia) , they became clearer about not belonging to neither the west nor the eastern blocks. This conference of non-aligned nations was attended by prominent leaders such as Presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and Prime Minister Jarwalal Nehru of India . They declared that they would pursue foreign policies based on ‘peaceful co-existence’, Dr. Mwaanga wrote.

“A few years ago, I addressed a 3000 strong conference of young people in Bandung, Indonesia, from non-aligned countries. Some of these young people also thought that non-alignment countries represented “neutrality”. After the Belgrade Conference of 1961, clearer definitions began to emerge. They made it very clear that non-alignment was not neutrality. At no time at the height of the cold war did the non-aligned nations take sides with the West or the East. It has been the tradition of non-aligned countries in multilateral organisations like the United Nations; always study issues presented on merit and make a determination of what is in the best interests of regional and world peace. They take into account the facts and merits on the ground’s must be quick to point out that they don’t always come to the same conclusions on all issues, as was the case recently in the United Nations General Assembly, where they were discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where non-aligned nations took different positions and voted differently,” said the former Foreign Affairs Minister.

“Let it be clearly understood that non-alignment is not and has never been neutrality. This position was affirmed by the 2nd Non-Aligned Conference which was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1964, upheld this position. At subsequent conferences in Lusaka, Zambia in 1971 and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2003, reaffirmed the relevance of the non-aligned movement and its contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security in the 21st century. It is undeniable that the non-aligned countries have made a very significant contribution towards making the world a better, but not necessarily a safer or saner place,” Dr. Mwaanga concluded.