Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the European Union Conference on Conflict Prevention: Dublin, 2 April 2004

Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to thank you for the invitation to address this conference. This conference is a timely intervention at this point in our history as peoples of the world, since it provides a much needed opportunity to discuss conflict prevention and to flesh out the role that civil society should play in the prevention of armed conflict.

I have been asked to focus in my brief presentation on outlining an African viewpoint: how as Africans we are collectively working together to prevent conflicts, what has been accomplished in recent times and what can be done to ensure that our partners in Europe work with us in this regard.

Clearly, at the outset it ought to be emphasized that conflict prevention cannot be looked at in isolation. Matters of conflict prevention, resolution, and peacekeeping are inextricably tied to issues of entrenching peace and stability, good governance, the deepening of democracy and concrete efforts towards sustainable social and economic development.

In fact, sustainable peace is only possible if there is sustainable development. Moreover, the strengthening of democratic governance is not simply a matter for the state or about transformation of the state and the parliamentary systems, but it is important for civil society in its NGOs and organizations of the people to ensure that democracy is a living reality and that political freedom is a right that is protected and asserted.

In the study, Comprehending and Mastering African Conflicts: The Search for Sustainable Peace and Good Governance, (1999: 14-15) Adebayo Adedji makes the following pertinent point. He writes:

"Wherever violent conflict exists, human poverty, income poverty and social exclusion are on the rise … in other words, poverty cannot be eliminated without progress in conflict prevention. Conflict prevention that is not based on full comprehension and mastery of the fundamental long-term historical causes as well as the short- to medium-term causes will invariably prove abortive. Poverty and conflicts feed on each other while both go hand-in-hand with bad governance…"

"More often than not the system of governance in a conflict country manifests total disregard for the protection of human rights as well as the marginalisation of its people. The trampling upon the citizenry or a substantial section of it, its suppression, coercion and brutalisation are usually the significant factors in the conflict…"

"Unfortunately, violent conflicts inevitably worsen the governance situation. Wars do cause enormous damages – physical, human, economic and social. After the cessation of conflict, the country finds that the hands of the clock have been turned back by at least one generation and in some cases by two or more. The people are confronted by all the different kinds of deprivation – income, human, social, and, the worst of all, psychological."

Distinguished delegates,

From Adedeji’s words it is unambiguous that conflict prevention in Africa can only be successful in the long-term if there is a genuine transformation of a terrain of conflict into one of sustained peace. This can only be brought about through a thorough understanding of the situation and through reducing and eradicating poverty, working towards social and economic progress and the empowerment of people through education.

Furthermore, if these issues are not understood as inextricably connected, we shall continue to further marginalize the most vulnerable of the population of these areas, namely women and children, who are left, deprived unprotected and prevented from living productive lives.

The struggle to eke out a living under such conditions denies freedom to think, to feel to nurture the young and to grow individually and collectively through community development.

Without economic and social progress and process of unity that come from cultural understanding and tolerance seen as part and parcel of conflict prevention and resolution, we are indeed keeping a people, a nation and a continent trapped in the backwardness of the past and preventing progress and prosperity.

We need to ensure that indeed the clock that Adedeji refers to does move forward and not back, that no generation is lost or prevented from fulfilling its mission as Franz Fanon would have said, or in broader terms, that no-one is barred from furthering the development of the African people. With this in mind, our focus has been on strengthening the capacity of regional and continental structures for conflict prevention and resolution.

President Thabo Mbeki, speaking in October 2000 on peace and democracy to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, explains this approach when he says that:

"We agree that one of the most important challenges facing Africa today is to achieve a comprehensive and sustained peace, and ensure that we arrive at an enduring pax Africana, for democracy and sustained development are possible only in conditions of peace and stability."

"It should also be one of our common goals tasks, especially those among us who consider themselves as progressives, to work together fro the entrenchment of a culture of peace in our regions, countries, our communities and our Continent. The resolution of conflict can only be expedited if the whole of society and all sectors mediate, and alongside their government, works towards an enduring peace.

Accordingly, we have to strengthen our regional and continental structures, so that we are able, ourselves, to ensure that we bring to an end all these unnecessary wars and conflicts and that the energies of our people are directed at the questions of development and advancement of our societies."

It is in this context of first and foremost strengthening our regional and continental structures, to complement United Nations initiatives, that as Africans we have managed to make advances in recent times and to see the fruits of our own labours.

The South African experience, and the role of women.

A concrete example of this is in 2003, when the African Union authorised the deployment of its first peacekeeping mission when it mandated the deployment of the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB) on 2 April of that year. The rapid reaction by the African Union through the deployment of Ethiopian, Mozambican and South African soldiers to AMIB reflected how seriously African leaders and the AU regarded the situation in that country and the importance of maintaining peace on the African continent as a whole.

This was despite the fact that at the time the United Nations argued that Burundi did not meet the criteria for intervention. We demonstrated that it was important for the peacekeeping mission to be deployed. The length of time whereby it would take the United Nations to enter the situation was a matter of grave discussion and part of our critique of the United Nations.

The deployment of troops to Burundi was also an entry point for the urgent need of a Peace and Security Council within the African Union.

We are pleased that barely two weeks ago we have made progress in this regard, when the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa on 16 March elected members of its Peace and Security Council. In accordance with the requirements stipulated in the PSC Protocol, the organ is comprised of 15 member states, the members of which are also representative of each of the five regions of the African Union. The current membership of South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Ethiopia and Gabon were elected for three-year terms, while Lesotho, Mozambique, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Libya, Ghana, Senegal and Togo, were elected for two-year terms.

This was an important development since the Peace and Security Council is expected to play a role in strengthening the capacity of the African Union for conflict prevention, management and resolution. This also entails a comprehensive strategy that includes post-conflict peace-building on the African continent.

The Panel of the Wise will be composed of five highly respected African personalities from various segments of society who have made outstanding contributions to the cause of peace, security and development on the continent.

The Peace and Security Council is the collective security and early-warning arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa.

Critical to early response by the African Union to potential conflict situations on the continent is that early warning systems be created and established at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa as well as at the headquarters of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

As Africans we believe we are succeeding in putting the foundations in place for building an African security architecture to enhance the existing institutions. In this way, we are confident that the general state of security and stability in Africa will be enhanced which will be of immense benefit to the security of the African people.

The African Union meeting last month in Addis Ababa also saw the inaugural session of the Pan-African parliament. The establishment of this key political organ of the African Union is a crucial and necessary step towards Africa taking control of its own political future. The prioritization of the formation of this was because once more we recognize that sustained development – an improvement in the quality of our people’s economic well-being – is inextricably linked to political stability, democratic governance, conflict prevention and resolution.

The Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) as a civil society organ of the African Union, can contribute to peace-building.

Role of women in conflict prevention and management.

The establishment of the Peace and Security Council, together with the first Pan-African Parliament and ECOSOCC will go a long way to building African unity and improving the security of Africa’s people coupled with creating and sustaining conditions of political stability.

The African Union has also progressed beyond peace-keeping and peace-making scenarios through involvement in conflict resolution in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, and post-conflict Sudan. There is progress in the creation of an African Standby Force that is to be comprised of an estimated 15 000 soldiers, policemen and military observers, the core responsibility of which will be to involve itself in peacekeeping endeavours as mandated by the African Union.

African countries are also responsible for being part of United Nations peace-keeping missions, with 24 African states having almost 10 000 nationals serving under the UN flag and constituting 26% of all UN peacekeepers internationally. Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa are at present classified by the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations as being among the top ten contributing countries to the United Nations.

Certainly, African countries are displaying stronger determination to direct participation in the United Nations in peacemaking, peace-keeping and peace enforcement initiatives. This must also be seen as support for the Brahimi Report released in 2000 by the UN Panel on peace Operations, which provided the necessary, comprehensive set of recommendations on improving UN peace-keeping. It also comes from a realisation that the success of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African economic development strategy, is only possible in conditions of stability.

African countries are in support of multilateralism as a principled position with which to deal with international conflicts and believe that it is important to participate fully in multilateral fora such as the African Union, the United Nations and in partnership with the European Union, thereby emphasising in word and deed a collective and enduring response to conflict in Africa and the world.

We are glad that the European Union in particular has been supportive of peacekeeping in Africa. We are grateful that the European Union is supporting the Fund for peace-keeping on the African continent. In this regard, the Peace Support Operational facility will certainly contribute much to Africa’s efforts to address conflict.

With the EU retaining two permanent members on the UN Security Council, we would also like to see closer co-operation with Africa in support of a far more responsive UN when it comes to conflict prevention and resolution.

We believe that there is a need to strengthen multilateralism as a means to address global issues, to entrench world peace and stability, to bring about an end to poverty and underdevelopment.

This is why we also look to the European Union as our partners in expanding the frontiers of peace, democracy and development on the African continent. We would like to see the Bilateral Support Programme of the EU in support of Africa to increase and move to a higher level.

What we want for our people and for the world is a global reality in which both the difference and diversity of people are acknowledged, and that the right to be African is also the right to be equal to others as well as to forge one’s own future. The ending of poverty is one that should affect all in the world, European and Africans alike. The prevention of conflict also requires the citizens of the world to work and act together.

In South Africa we are celebrating 10 years of democracy, of freedom, this year and in this very month. We attained our freedom not only through our own efforts and that of fellow African, but through the firm participation of governments and people of the world in the global ant-apartheid movement. Our brothers and sisters here in Ireland were firmly behind our cause, our fight for freedom.

Let us continue to work together as countries, continents and as people of the world to prevent and to end conflicts, to entrench peace, to eradicate poverty. Only in this way will we be able to ensure that for all of humanity the clock does move forward in time and we do succeed in the fullness of this time in having a free people living fulfilling lives in a free world.

I thank you.


Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X152

Pretoria

0001

2 April 2004


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