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Haitian diplomat who openly defied his government to support the Somali cause at the UN
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
The name of Emile Saint-Lot, the Haitian Diplomat at the United Nations, came to the fore in 1949, when he broke ranks with the Latin American delegates at the United Nations and voted against the ill-conceived Bevin-Sforza Plan on the future of the Italian pre-war African colonies. The General Assembly of the United Nations fell heir to one of the most difficult problems of the post-war diplomatic scene when in September 1948 the big four powers referred to it the problem of the disposition of the Italian former colonies.
The Bevin-Sforza Plan
The Bevin-Sforza Plan was a joint agreement signed in London on 4 May, 1949 between British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bevin, and Italian Foreign Minister, Count Carlo Sforza to grant trusteeships to:
1. Britain in Cyrenaica; Italy in Tripolitania; and France in the Fezzan, for a ten-year period, after which Libya would become independent.
2. Partition of Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia
3. Somalia to be placed under trusteeship with Italy as administering power with no mention of any date for independence.
The Bevin-Sforza Plan was a bilateral compromise reached outside the United Nations process at a time when the issue of the disposal of the Italian colonies was on the agenda of the General Assembly for discussion.
The provisions of the Anglo-Italian accord were incorporated in a resolution submitted by Britain to the General Assembly of the United Nations which, in turn, referred the resolution to the First Committee, known as Political and Security Committee for examination and report.
The Political Committee Approves the Anglo-Italian Plan
With strong backing of Western countries and the Latin America Republics, the resolution based on the Bevin-Sforza Plan was adopted by the First Committee and submitted to the General Assembly. The Plan was categorically rejected by the Somali League; however, it received enthusiastic support by the leaders of the Conferenza Somala, politically in favour of Italian return to Somalia. In fact, in a message addressed to Giuseppe Brusasca, the Italian Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, they expressed their satisfaction with the Anglo-Italian Plan in these terms: “Pregovi rendervi interprete governo italiano rallegramenti del popolo somalo. Accordo Sforza-Bevin conferma nostra idea, formato Islao e Yassin” (“We kindly urge you to pass on to the Italian government the congratulations of the Somali people. Sforza-Bevin Plan in line with our idea. Signed Islao and Yassin”) (ASCM, 34, 65, 15 Maggio, 1949)
Bevin-Sforza Plan narrowly defeated at the General Assembly
The crucial vote of the Haitian Delegate
Predictably, the Bevin-Sforza Plan, approved by the Political Committee, was met with strong criticism from various quarters, when it came up for discussions in the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Russians, supported by the other Eastern European States and Arab and Asiatic States, declared that the resolution failed to reflect the views and the interest of the peoples if the colonies themselves. On the other side, the Western countries and the Latin American States, claimed that, since it was not possible to find a solution that would completely reconcile all the various suggestions, the Bevin-Sforza Plan was the best that could be expected under the circumstance. (UN Doc. A/PV, 217)
When at late evening of May 17,1949, the voting process started , the paragraph relating to Britain’s trusteeship over Cyrenaica was adopted by 36 in favour, 17 against and 6 abstentions, and the French trusteeship over Fezzan by 36 in favour, 15 against and 7 abstentions, obtaining thus the required majority of two-thirds. However, the paragraph concerning Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania was short by one vote to obtain the required two-third majority in the General Assembly having obtained 33 votes in favour to 17 against and with 8 abstentions. (Gianluigi Rossi, 1985). Haiti, which was not expected to vote against the Bevin-Sforza package over former Italian colonies, did, instead, vote against the Plan despite his country's instruction to vote in favor of it.
Again, when the question of the Italian trusteeship on Somalia was put to the vote, the Haitian delegate to the UN,
Senator Emile Saint Lot
voted against the Plan. The vote of Haiti was decisive in the failure of the Anglo-Italian Plan. Haiti’s delegate broke ranks with the positions of other Latin American States, known for their support of Italian return to her former African colonies. After rejecting the Bevin-Sforza Plan, Saint-Lot made the following declaration before the General Assembly on 18 May, 1949: “Given the affinities with the African people, it was impossible for Haiti to support the draft resolution of the First Committee, which might have had nefarious consequences for those peoples (UN Doc. A/PV, 219). The vote of the Haitian delegate had given rise to a chain of reactions. For Count Carlo Sforza, St. Lot “was drunk and not in possession of his full mental capacity at the time of voting”. (Sforza, 1952) There have been also allegations that he had been bribed by the Arab delegates who were opposed to the delay to grant independence to Libya. Others, by contrast, praised the Haitian diplomat portraying him as a person who, unlike other Latin American delegates, had always made known his opposition to Italy’s trusteeship over any of her former African colonies.(Gianluigi Rossi, 1985)
It was during its fourth ordinary session on November 21, 1949, that, the General Assembly of the United Nations overwhelming accepted on November 21, 1949 the resolution placing Somalia under Italian trusteeship.
Ambassador Emilie Saint-Lot decorated with the Order of Somali Star
In show of gratitude, and in recognition of the honorable position he took, Mr. Emile Saint-Lot was decorated by the President of the Republic of Somalia with the Order of Somali Star, Second category in 1961, during his visit to Somalia The conferral of the decoration was read aloud before the Somali National Assembly (Corriere della Somalia, 26 August, 1961) Ambassador Emile Saint-Lot was later hired as Legal Advisor for the Permanent Mission of Somalia to the United Nations in New York for a monthly fee of $400.
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