Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma's Opening Address at the AU Common African Defence and Security Policy Meeting, 27 - 29 March 2003, Randburg Towers, South Africa

Continental Experts on Defence and Security,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, I would like to welcome you to this southern tip of Africa .It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to the first meeting of Experts’ on the Common African Defence and Security Policy.


At the July 2002 Durban Summit, The Heads of State and Government took the decision that a "Common African Defence and Security Policy" should be developed.


We gather at a time when the war in Iraq is dominating the hearts and minds of people throughout the globe. This reminds us of the untold suffering and destruction that is caused by any war.


The decision taken by our leaders was very correct and timely since as small and weak states our only hope for survival is in multilateralism. The centrality of the UN is more important than ever before. As a continent, which is the cradle of humanity, bound together by geography, history and our cultural heritage our destiny is inseparable. We have to defend ourselves and our continent.


It is therefore not suprising that we would like to share a common defence and security policy. This should allow us to prevent inter-state conflicts and to minimise internal conflicts and deal with external aggression where a collective response is necessary.


In the next three days we shall be engaged in an effort to develop our continental defence policy. This process will lead to a common approach and a collective response to the calamities and conflicts we may encounter in the future.


It has taken forty years since this concept was first muted at the founding conference of the OAU, proposed by one of our heroes, the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Of course there has been many steps taken as the continental organisation has evolved and matured.


The post-cold war era did not usher in a period of security, democracy, stability and development. We seem to have entered a phase of internal conflicts, fights for the control of the natural resources including the most tragic genocide in Rwanda. It seems we are facing a danger of a weakening if not destruction of the UN. We must of course not allow this to happen.


The establishment of the AU has given us new opportunities to examine the security situation on our continent. The founding law of our Union, the Constitutive Act has already defined conditions under which a collective response is required. We now have to elaborate on the policies contained in the Constitutive Act. The Peace and Security Council will give us the tools with which to respond.


It is necessary that our discussions take cognisance of instruments already in existence. As individual member-states, we have obligations towards UN agreements and those agreements and treaties concluded under the auspices of the OAU and now the AU, as well as regional commitments. These existing instruments have given us a wealth of experiences from which we may draw lessons.


As such we have to be careful not to recast positions already in existence such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the NEPAD, the Protocol on Terrorism, to name but a few. We have to be guided throughout our deliberations by the need to respect human rights, which plays a role in preventing violent conflicts.


Our discussions must look at the primary responsibility that member-states have, in making collective decisions regarding the defence and security of their own citizens.


Clear emphasis should be placed on the peaceful resolution of conflicts, whether between states or within states. This is of particular importance while we still have unresolved conflicts on our continent, such as the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic and others.


We need to go beyond the traditional definitions of defence and security and build a basis for future co-operations by sharing intelligence, establishing centres of excellence for training and through these means build trust and confidence.


A careful definition of what constitutes military threats is required. In this context, the role of the Peace and Security Council needs to be stipulated. Emphasis needs to be placed on conflict resolution by peaceful means such as diplomacy, good offices, negotiations and mediation etc.


Serious consideration should be given to how we treat conflicts within and between states and the function of the Peace and Security Council under these circumstances.


We have an opportunity to develop a truly modern and progressive instrument learning from the mistakes and successes of others that have done it before us.


I would like to wish you every success in your deliberations and I trust that you will be able to present the Extra-Ordinary Executive Council Session in May with concrete results.


I thank you.

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