Status on improvement of situation in Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan and Guinea

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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION NO: 179           (NO3464E)

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 32-2011 OF 18 OCTOBER 2011

MR SJ NJIKELANA (ANC) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION:

  1. Whether she has found that there has been any improvement in the situation in (a) Cote d’Ivoire, (b) South Sudan and (c) Guinea; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details;

  2. whether she has found that there are any prospects of political reforms being introduced in (a) Syria and (b) Yemen; if not, what is the position in each case; if so,

  3. whether her department intends making any contribution to such efforts; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

  1.  

(a) Cote d’Ivoire

Yes, there has been a significant improvement in the situation in Cote d’Ivoire since the inauguration of President Alassane Ouattara on 21 May 2011: President Ouattara has successfully formed a Cabinet. The security situation has improved significantly.  Arrangements are still on track for the Parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 December 2011.

In the spirit of promoting national reconciliation, President Ouattara has appointed Commissioners for the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (DTRC), which is led by Mr. Charles Konan Banny, former Prime Minister in Gbagbo’s administration. 

(b) South Sudan

Following the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which brought to an end the civil war and ushered in the declaration of independence of the Republic of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, the political and security situation in the new Republic of South Sudan remained relatively stable. Moreover, challenges remain in the peripheral areas such as the disputed border of Abyei and the border state of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states where skirmishes and elements of insecurity threaten to undermine the gains of the CPA and peaceful co-existence between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.

President Al Bashir of Sudan and President Salvar Kiir of South Sudan recently held direct political dialogue and agreed to resolve outstanding matters through peaceful means.

South Africa recently dispatched a high profile business delegation from different sectors led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to identify economic opportunities in the new Republic of South Sudan. These developments in the history of the new state of South Sudan point to the fact that there is an improvement in the political situation in that country.

(c) Guinea

Yes, the political situation did improve in Guinea Conakry. Since the conclusion of the Ouagadougou Accord in January 2010 the country embarked on a successful transition from military to civilian rule. The political maturity of the Guinean people reflected positively in the manner in which the following unfolded:

1. The first round of presidential elections took place in June 2010. A run-off between the two top contenders, Cellou Dialein Diallo - Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) and Alfa Condé - Rally of the Guinea People (RPG) took place in November 2010. Professor Alfa Condé emerged victorious from the Second Round of Presidential Elections and his opponent conceded defeat. Alpha Condé was inaugurated in December 2010. President Zuma and Minister Nkoana-Mashabane attended the inauguration in Conakry.

2.  President Alpha Condé called for dialogue with opposition parties regarding the Legislative Election scheduled for 29 December 2011, and a meeting to lay out a strategy to form a broad based negotiation forum was held on 26 September 2011. Opposition parties protested the announcement of the election date as unilateral decision by Government. President Alpha Condé expressed his willingness to open talks with the political opposition in an attempt to determine the most appropriate date for the Legislative Elections and address allegations that his Government is ignoring concerns of the opposition.  

3.  In July 2010, the Presidential Residence in Conakry was attacked by soldiers in a two hour gun battle. President Condé’s was unharmed in the attack and he described the incident as an attempted assassination. A group of 37 rogue soldiers were arrested for the incident. Sixteen people, including 10 soldiers have been charged with attempted assassination for an attack on President Alpha Condé. They were charged with criminal association, threat to state security, murder of a member of the presidential guard and attempted assassination of the Head of State. The matter is currently before the courts.

(2)

(a) Syria

1. In a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, dated 9 June 2011, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem noted that President Bashar Al-Asad had announced a comprehensive reform program to promote democracy, participation in the political system, national unity and security.
Indeed a sizeable number of political reforms have been decreed since April 2011,
       
 2. The political reforms that have been decreed include, most notably the     following:

  • Ending the State of Emergency;
  • Abolishment of the Supreme State Security Court;
  • A Cabinet restructuring;
  • Changing a number of the Governors;
  • Granting Syrian Arab nationality to Kurds previously registered as foreigners;
  • Establishing a National Dialogue;
  • Local Dialogue Forums have been conducted at a Governorate level, meant to inform the National Dialogue process;
  • Granting amnesty for crimes committed before a specified date;
  • Acknowledging and regulating the right to hold peaceful demonstrations;
  • A new Multi-Party Law that allows for a multi-party democracy in Syria and the establishment of new political parties;
  • A new Media Law;
  • A new Local Administration Law;
  • The formation of a Constitutional Review Committee to prepare a draft
  • Constitution in the next four months;
  • Local elections are reportedly scheduled for 12 December 2011.

3. The draft Constitution is said to go to Parliament upon its conclusion, after     which it would be put to a Referendum. The new Constitution has been suggested as the culmination of the reform process in Syria. The election of a new Parliament will take place in February/March 2012.
 
(b) Yemen

  1.  An analysis of the domestic situation in Yemen indicates that the country is in a fragile domestic political state.  The primary challenges relate to divergent wills of the people and the incumbent government.  Yemeni citizens largely express discontent with the incumbent President Ali Abdullah Saleh.  To this end, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have sought to assume a mediatory role between government and opposition groups, a formal agreement has been formulated by the countries of the GCC in consultation with the Yemeni government and opposition representatives.  The agreement stipulates that President Saleh would relinquish his position as the Head of State and transfer power to the Vice-President Abd Mansour Hadi, in exchange for exemption from prosecution, and elections would be conducted within 30 days to elect a new government.  As a result, since February 2011, protestors have maintained near daily public protests, which have often attracted brute retaliation from Yemeni security forces.

  2. However, to date President Saleh has stalled signature of the agreement, leaving the country in state of volatility.  Recently, the UNSC has deliberated a draft Resolution sponsored by Britain, aimed at pressurising President Saleh to transfer power. 

  3. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) constitutes a further domestic challenge confronting Yemen.  Yemen was designated as a “frontline State in the war on terror” by the USA.  It has been alleged that the USA has operated drone strikes in Yemen with the aim of routing out Al-Qaeda operatives, analysts are of the opinion that under the Saleh administration, President Saleh tolerated the presence of the AQAP operatives to gain the financial and political support of the USA.

  4. On 11 October 2011, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Mr Jamal Benomar briefed the UN Security Council on the status quo in developments related to the political, humanitarian and socio-economic conditions in Yemen. Mr Benomar advised the UNSC that the political situation remains in a stalemate, despite the existence of the GCC plan, which has not yet yielded positive results but it remains the only viable plan. Mr Benomar further highlighted the deteriorating humanitarian situation related to the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the proliferation of Al-Qaeda operations in approximately three cities in the south of Yemen. Violence is largely concentrated in the capital Sana’a, which is equally divided by pro and anti-government supporters. Mr Benomar advised the UNSC that agreement on the following transitional arrangements has been reached between the Yemeni government and opposition groups – the transfer of power to the Vice President, elections, establishment of a Committee on restructuring of the armed forces, creation of a forum for national dialogue. Following the Special Envoy’s briefing to the UNSC, the UK advised the UNSC that it would propose a draft Resolution with the objective of condemning the violent situation in Yemen, highlighting the deteriorating humanitarian and socio-economic conditions, reiterate the UNSC’s support of the GCC’s initiative and to urge President Saleh to commit to the GCC initiative and commit to its implementation thereof.

(3)  

Syria

South Africa has and continues to express concern at the high number of deaths brought about by the violence.  We regret all loss of life and remain concerned about the possible humanitarian impact of the violence. South Africa further condemns all forms of violence, including the use of force against unarmed civilians, as well as hostility against security forces and sectarian violence.  We call for an immediate end to the violence and urge all sides to act with the utmost restraint, respect Human Right and International Humanitarian Law, and to refrain from reprisals.

Government has called on the Syrian authorities to comply with their international obligations under Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and to launch a credible and impartial investigation into the violence in Syria.

It is our belief that the only solution to the current crisis is through a Syrian-led political process that is inclusive, with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow for the full exercise of fundamental freedoms, including that of expression and peaceful assembly.

We welcome the actions already taken by the Syrian Government in launching dialogue as well as the reform measures already announced.  However, it is essential for the Syrian Government to accelerate and continue the process of dialogue and implement the reforms.  Hope has been expressed that opposition groups will participate in this process.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation has actively promoted South Africa’s position on, inter-alia, political reforms, as noted supra, in international fora as well as in its engagement with the Syrian Government at the highest level.  In this regard reference could be made to:

  1. Statement by the South African Delegation during the 16th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, dated 29 April 2011;

  2. Statement issued by DIRCO entitled: South Africa is concerned about the situation in Syria, dated 1 August 2011;

  3. Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim after the bilateral meeting with the Syrian counterpart, Vice Minister Mikdad, on 9 August 2011;

  4. Statement issued by the IBSA delegation subsequent to their engagements with President Bashar Al-Asad and Foreign Minister Al-Moallem on 10 August 2011; and

  5. Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu in explanation of the vote in the UN Security Council on the situation in Syria

South Africa will continue to utilize all avenues available to support and promote a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria.  A Syrian-led political process that delivers on political reforms which respond to the genuine and legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people is an integral part of the transitioning to a free, democratic and prosperous Syria.

Yemen

South Africa supported the UNSC Resolution on the situation in Yemen. South Africa lends its full support with the GCC initiative as a regional solution to the Yemeni impasse.  The status quo dictates that there will not be a quick resolution of the Yemeni crisis due to the stalemate in negotiations between government and opposition groups related to the transfer of power. The South African Government lends its support to the work of the Special Envoy and the GCC regional initiative to encourage an all-inclusive and Yemeni led political process to result in a lasting and peaceable solution to the conflict.

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