Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma on the The role of the Sub-Regional and Non-Governmental Organisations in Conflict Prevention and Peace Initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, Japan 26-29 March 2000

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am greatly honored to have been invited to address you here today. A thorough

discussion of the topics on your agenda could not have come at a better time because it

follows shortly after some very important decisions and similar discussions in other fora.

A few examples should suffice.

At their meeting in Algiers last year, the Heads of State and Government of the

Organization of African Unity declared the year 2000 as "The year of Peace, Security and

Solidarity in Africa". During December 1999 and January this year, both the United

Kingdom and the United States of America devoted their month of Presidency of the

Security Council of the United Nations to special debates on the problems in Africa.

During the Presidency of the United States, a special debate focussed on the conflict in the

Democratic Republic of the Congo, during which time all the Heads of States of the

countries involved in the conflict committed themselves to the Lusaka Cease-fire


Also in December of last year, the Community of East African States (COMESA) held a

Ministerial meeting in Cairo where strategies to enhance economic development in their

region were considered. They also deliberated on the various conflict situations in Africa.

Last month, from 16 to 20 February, African heads of state attended the National Summit

on Africa in Washington. At this meeting, they reiterated a position that has become a

regular theme in debates amongst Africans, wherever they take place: the realization that

the sustainability and success of all their endeavors are critically dependent on the

maintenance of peace, stability and security within their respective nations and between



If I today leave with these esteemed participants only one message, I will be happy. That is that there is a dialectical link between peace, stability, security and sustainable development and good governance, transparency, violations of human rights, lack of democracy, dis-empowerment of people, poverty, underdevelopment, corruption and opportunistic exploitation of Africa’s natural resources by foreign entities. Successful conflict resolution and development initiatives have also proven that there is an inextricable connection between the work of governments, inter-governmental organisations and civil society and its organisations. We know that we should make governments responsible for what they do best and leave to civil society what they can do best.

Although this realization is not new, centuries of colonialism and the four decades of the Cold War, have destroyed whatever functioning links we as Africans had forged over millennia among all these factors. To use the fashionable Post-Modernist terminology: the very fibre of Africa’s political, economic, community and environmental health was deconstructed during all this time and we now have to find a way in which to reconstruct our societies. We have to do it from scratch, within a totally different international milieu and in communities who have lost the sense of their own worth. A recent television programme on Sierra Leone reminded me of a poem by the Kenyan poet, Stephen Ndichu. It is also reflective of so many other parts of the world, especially Africa, today:


A man running at dawn

A man fleeing at break o’new day

A woman screaming at dawn

A child running at break o’new day

A child fleeing at dawn

A black man

A Black woman

A Black child

Running, fleeing at break o’new day which is everyday


Black men

Black women

Black children


How do we intend stopping the men, the women and the children from running?

Not very far into the Cold War era, Africans decided that the first step back to their own dignity was to speak with one political voice in the United Nations. Although at that time only 7 African countries were represented in the UN, they had to find a way of consolidating Africa’s position in that organisation. This was the raison d’être for the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. At the time, Kwame Nkruma’s argument to seek the political kingdom first was the only legitimate argument: without political authority over themselves, Africans would not have the legitimate authority to look after themselves socially, economically and environmentally.

Today, the OAU has 53 members. They are all independent states and have, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Cold War, been able to redirect the work of the Organization into translating the Continent’s political achievements into grassroots benefits for Africa's own people. One of the spin-offs has been a new dynamism in regional cooperation and integration amongst governments all over Africa.


This is what the Abuja Treaty, in terms of which an African Economic Community has been established, is all about. With this treaty, the OAU had the foresight in 1991 to envisage what other reports recommended long after that. There is hardly an aspect of human endeavor which did not find its way into the Abuja Treaty and which does beg proper interaction incrementally between states, regions and continental bodies.

Following on that, the Cairo Declaration of 1993 authorised the establishment of the OAU Central Organ for the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflict, which inter alia, recognized the need to broaden the scope of what signals would constitute an early warning to potential conflict. Other reports followed, and may I say received more attention, but they all say the same thing.

In 1997, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, put the emphasis on the integration of structural, financial, political, economic and social approaches to ensure peace and development.
The Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD), in its Development Assistance Committee Guidelines on Conflict, Peace and Development Cooperation of 1997, recognized the link between development and conflict and made certain recommendations.
The most seminal document to come forth on the issue was prepared by Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is an African. His took the debate much further in his 1998 Report on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa. In an almost daring fashion, he spelt out the crucial notion of accepting responsibility for ourselves, which underlies all initiatives to improve the lives of the people of Africa. To paraphrase his argument, he called for a shortening of the line of responsibility between the conflict, the people who suffer from it and the people who try to solve it. Whereas the United Nations has the primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, governments, regional and sub-regional organisations and other institutions from civil society and business should share more of this responsibility in a coordinated, constructive fashion. He himself has put his conviction into practice by insisting on a much closer relationship between the UN, civil society and business. Who would have dreamt, even five years ago, that the UN would have its own UN/NGO website!

This brings me to the role of regional organisations. (I will talk about the non

governmental sector in a moment.)

Over the past few years all the sub-regional organisations have taken initiatives to bring

together their efforts aimed at socioeconomic development and the strengthening of peace

and stability within their regions. Until about 1994, almost all these organisations more or

less left the political work pertaining to the management and resolution of conflicts to the

continental organisation, the OAU, while concentrating on economic integration.

ECOWAS, COMESA, IGAD AND SADC were all similar in this respect. However,

intractable conflicts within all our regions, as well as the common realization that political

stability and security must be fostered within the context of sustainable development,

compelled us to rethink this artificial separation of activities. Some are further developed

than others, but all these organisations now have mechanisms in place or afoot to deal

with the political and security concerns in their regions.

In our own region, SADC has established the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security

and we are in the process of reviewing its role, structures and functions. Numerous

initiatives are underway to augment the region’s activities and interoperability with

respect to development and security in our part of the world. These initiatives range from

capacity building to strengthen our institutional structures, to building partnerships with

the donor community and civil society.

A prime example is capacity building for peacekeeping, crime prevention and the curbing

of illicit trafficking in small arms within SADC. Together with a variety of non-governmental organisations, SADC as a sub-regional organisation has been training military personnel, diplomats, civilian police and civilians for peacekeeping and crime prevention. Where more government involvement is needed, such as the holding of full-scale peacekeeping exercises, the SADC as sub-regional organisation provides the overall mandate and political guidance.

Where NGOs have more capacity than us, we utilize their resources and interact in a

constructive way. In this way, we have excellent access to the latest research and the

intellectual debate on relevant topics, technology, the views of specific sectors in civil

society, training capabilities and international experts. In our interaction with civil

society we are careful to ensure their participation in a manner that would neither impinge

on their independence and autonomy, nor compromise Government’s ultimate

responsibility to lead and to deliver.

The most recent example is the decision by the SADC Heads of State to establish a formal sub-regional capacity for humanitarian relief, which will take cognizance of the capacity and assistance we can get from NGOs. The decision has been informed by the lessons we learned during the flood disaster in Mozambique.


All these activities are underpinned by the fact that sophisticated politics are meaningless if the individual, the mother in a refugee camp, the migrant worker in a mine, or the lonely policeman or police woman on the beat in a dangerous area at night, does not have a decent home to go back to after a hard day’s work. Our approach should reflect the multifaceted nature of human life and the multidisciplinary response we should give to life’s problems.

By way of illustration, let me elaborate a bit on the two peacekeeping exercises we have held in SADC in the last four years. After the lessons we learned in the first exercise, Exercise Blue Hungwe in Zimbabwe, all participating countries decided that the NGO community be involved in staging the second exercise. Exercise Blue Crane was the first peacekeeping exercise on the continent which included the comprehensive complement of civilian police, humanitarian agencies, communications experts and an ambassador from the SADC region who played the role of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General.

And when SADC had to decide what to call its peacekeeping exercises, they decided on "Blue Hungwe" and "Blue Crane". "Blue Hungwe" is the Shona word for " Blue Crane". This bird is indigenous to Southern Africa and in our folklore it is the bird which protects children.

In West Africa, the ECOWAS heads of State in December 1999 approved the protocol for their own Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peace and Security. This meeting also endorsed the establishment of the West African Court of Justice and confirmed that the Community Parliament had to be established within the shortest possible time. Furthermore, a code of conduct was agreed upon which compels member states to seek permission from ECOWAS before importing light weapons for purposes of peacekeeping, hunting, training or sporting activities. While there is a moratorium within ECOWAS on the importation, export and manufacture of small arms, this code of conduct will enable countries to import these arms for the purposes as stated above, whilst still maintaining the moratorium. Once again, the common sense approach.

In East Africa, COMESA is steadily bringing together their activities with regard to peace and development. At the recent COMESA 2000 Conference in Cairo, emphasis was laid on the need to improve infrastructure and to explore ways of enabling the private sector to put weight behind African development efforts.

When the IGADD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development, was

formed in 1986, it had a very narrow mandate around the issues of drought and

desertification. Since then, and especially in the 1990s, IGADD has become the accepted

vehicle for regional security and political dialogue. Today, IGAD stands for the

Intergovernmental Authority on Development and has three priority areas of cooperation:

Conflict prevention, management and resolution and Humanitarian Affairs;
Infrastructure development (transport and communications), and
Food security and environment protection.
Article 18 of the agreement establishing IGAD states that member states shall act

collectively to preserve peace, security and stability which are essential prerequisites for

economic development. It is in this context that IGAD has been involved in activities to

facilitate the peace processes in Somalia and the Sudan.

On all these platforms, topics such as economic development and integration are being

interspersed by debates and programmes to prevent unconstitutional changes of

government, the strengthening of administrative and political structures, environmental

security, the issue of illicit small arms trafficking, landmines, and how to improve the

access of women to a better life. Many of these topics were untouchable a few years ago,

but our political liberation has made it possible for us to tackle them now.

One aspect within our regions which needs further strengthening is the situation of

women within the corridors of power. Personally, I should like to see much more support

for the OAU Committee on Women, Peace and Development, which was approved by the

OAU Summit in 1997, but still has to start functioning effectively. It has therefore also

not yet been able to interact with the sub-regional organisations. This Committee is

constituted of both government officials and prominent individuals outside of

government, which is a first for an official OAU committee.

This brings me to the role of Non-governmental Organisations in conflict prevention and

peace initiatives.


In order to facilitate the roles of sub-regional organisations and NGOs, it is helpful to

determine their respective strengths and weaknesses.

With regard to interstate organisations, I should like to point out the following strengths:

We can provide the political framework for peace, security, stability and development;
We can lend the weight of international law to our work;
We can facilitate access to other international human, financial and infrastructural resources;
We can develop the necessary structural and institutional "skeleton" from where we can develop processes to put flesh onto this "skeleton" in order to complete the full body.
NGOs, on the other hand, can help us to do things governments and organisations find

difficult to give substance to. They can help us to put the "soul" into the work of our

governments and organisations through:

Empowering our human resource capacity through training in especially management and administration;
Acting as early warning mechanisms to prevent conflict;
Functioning as a sounding board for policy initiatives;
Contributing to policy formulation;
Serving as channels to lobby important issues, such as happened with the entire campaign to ban the production, sale, use and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines.

There is an African saying that "two hands are better than one". If we put our hands together by reinforcing each other’s strengths, we will cancel out our weaknesses. In the absence of a prompt response to the disaster in Mozambique, this is exactly what happened. While international organisations and powerful governments were still waiting for CNN to decide whether it merited their attention, Africans from the southern region were the first to lend a practical, not only a rhetorical, hand. Together with many NGOs and private businesses from our region, we were able to assemble the type of cooperation not yet seen in this part of the world. They came from all walks of life, whether organised or not.

With our experience from Mozambique, as well as with out experience during the struggle against apartheid, we have learnt that cooperation between governments and NGOs provide the best vehicle for tangible progress. Those governments and NGOs who still shy away from each other are hampering the restoration of the very communities they purport to serve. In fact, I would venture to say that most of the problems we have in recognizing each other’s legitimate roles are based on the simple human frailty we call vanity.

I should like to pay special tribute to the millions of women, in their individual capacity and in especially the NGO community who work tirelessly to better the lives of people. Mother Theresa, who gave hope to the destitute of Calcutta; Graca Machel’s work with UNICEF; Gro Harlem Bruntland, who heads the WHO; High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who had the guts to speak out against the double standards of the West regarding Kosovo and Sierra Leone; Sadako Ogata’s work for the millions of refugees all over the world; Jody Williams of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines; the housewives of Sierra Leone who took to the streets in 1996 to ensure that the elections there took place; mothers all over the world who try to make a living with nothing; the wives of migrant workers who try to sustain families without fathers.

What all these women have in common is their ability to give structure to their work, without forfeiting their humanity. To me this is the synthesis of what the relationship between government and civil society should be, and they bear testimony to what Sojourner Truth, the first African-American woman anti-slavery lecturer, wrote in the previous century:

"If the first woman God ever made

Was strong enough to turn the world

Upside down, all alone

Together women ought to be able to turn it

Rightside up again".

I thank you.

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