Uganda reignites 'Bandung Spirit' with NAM Summit

President William Ruto side-chat with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed during the 19th Non-aligned Movement Summit in Entebbe, Uganda. [PCS]

As many as two dozen heads of state and governments arrived in Entebbe on Thursday and Friday, to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit (NAM).

The 19th forum of the 120-member group covering 55 per cent of the world’s population is expected to discuss responses to contemporary challenges around the world, at a time when the relevance of the NAM in the post-Cold War era is under question.

President William Ruto represented Kenya at the summit.

Uganda, the chair of NAM is hosting the summit for the first time and comes at a time when Kampala has been shunned by Western powers over its anti-gay law.

But for Uganda, the summit is the biggest diplomatic event the country has hosted since the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2007.

The East African country is only the fifth African nation to host a NAM summit since the bloc’s formal establishment in 1961, after South Africa, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Egypt.

Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, who is hosting leaders from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe aims to revitalize the Bandung Spirit during the gathering of 120 nations, representing 55 per cent of the global population, to address global challenges.

The Non-Aligned movement builds its work on ten Bandung principles; respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, and respect for justice and international obligations among others.

“NAM continues to hold significance as an organisation, and in light of the intricate global landscape, the continued relevance of the 10-point Bandung Principles remains evident in the present era,” said Uganda’s foreign minister Gen. Abubakar Jeje Odongo during the opening of the summit on Monday.

Why Bandung Spirit and Principles?

In April 1955, officials from twenty-nine Asian and African states met in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss peace, the role of the Third World in the Cold War, economic development, and decolonisation.

The Bandung Conference's guiding principles included political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in domestic affairs, and equality.

All conference participants, the majority of whom had recently escaped from colonial authority, were deeply concerned about these issues.

Indonesia, Pakistan, Burma (Myanmar), and Sri Lanka co-sponsored the Bandung conference.

Because the decolonization process was still ongoing, the delegates at the conference took it upon themselves to speak for other colonized peoples (especially Africans) who had not yet established sovereign governments.

This conference and its final resolution planted the seeds for a nonaligned movement during the Cold War.

Leaders of developing countries banded together to avoid being forced to take sides in the Cold War contest.

The initial motivation for the movement was the promotion of peace.

During the ministerial meeting at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, the Indonesian ambassador to Kenya, Hery Saripudin, emphasised that NAM’s success hinges on unity and adaptability in a complex, evolving world.

“Indonesia, as a founding member, and as the birthplace of the Bandung principles, is committed to actively contributing to the realization of a just and inclusive global order,” argued the Southeast Asia’s country envoy.

Spearheaded by the founding Indonesian president Sukarno, the Bandung conference will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2025.

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