SABC Africa Interview with President Thabo Mbeki regarding Sudan / Darfur and South Africa - France, 13 April 2007


20070413 SABC Africa 08:47

President Mbeki Interview With Miranda Strydom

Duration: 9 min 39 sec.

Presenter: South African President, Thabo Mbeki, says the Sudanese government needs to act against people who have committed crimes against humanity. Speaking to the SABC yesterday the President said Sudan's government will arrest and charge the perpetrators of crimes against civilians in the troubled Darfur region, and sent to the International Criminal Court. President Mbeki was in Paris to hold talks with Mr. Jacques Chirac after a one-day visit to Sudan.

Presenter: Mr. President, if we can just start off by talking about your visit to Sudan, you held discussions with President Omar al-Bashir, is there any progress that's being made?

President Thabo Mbeki: The report we got from both… from President Bashir and the first vice-president, Salva Kiir, who's also of course as you know president of the government of southern Sudan, was the same. That in fact progress is being made with regard to the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement. That with regard to outstanding matters they have agreed on a timetable for the resolution of those. But with regard to Darfur they again, both President Bashir and the vice-president… first vice-president Salva Kiir, very keen to see a speedy resolution of the situation in Darfur. In that context last month the Sudanese government and the United Nations reached an agreement about how to deal with the humanitarian situation. They had reached an agreement, the UN, the African Union and the Sudanese government about the peacekeeping issues. So the global framework has been agreed. The details have been agreed, except for one issue, and that's an issue which has to do with deployment of helicopters, helicopter gun ships, is really the control over those helicopter gun ships. Because these are combat aircraft, they are not your normal peacekeeping military equipment, they're combat equipment.

Presenter: But you [unclear] quoting President Bashir saying that there are some areas where's there's still no agreement. Could these be in… with regard to these gun ships?

President Thabo Mbeki: The other details are agreed, it's this one detail that's not been agreed about… as I was saying, about the control… well, first of all, who would supply such helicopter gun ships. Because, as I was saying, [unclear] combat formations, and under whose control. With the Sudanese government of course as we expect would [unclear] saying that this hybrid force which is African Union, United Nations must, as has been agreed, must have one commander. And therefore they would come under the command of such a commander. But the issue that's arisen which is the matter in dispute is that there is some suggestion that they would come under the command and control of the United Nations. So the issue is then that assumes that there will be two parallel commands. One this joint command, and commander of the hybrid force. And then a parallel separate UN command. Now you can't… you can't have one military force with two commanders. The biggest problem with regards to Darfur is the political negotiations. The most urgent issue is the bringing into the framework of the Abuja peace agreement of the other rebel groups in Darfur, bringing those into… within the ambit of the Abuja peace agreement. The immediate challenge is that there are many of them… of these rebel groups. They don't speak with one voice. Their representatives are scattered all over the world. Some of them [unclear] the African continent, some of them are in Europe. And it's difficult to bring them together because the Sudanese government is waiting to engage them in negotiations to find a political solution. The [unclear] last thing we discussed with the Sudanese government was the need for countries that had pledged donations, particularly to address the challenges of development in the south, to honour their pledges, and they were saying that the donors were not living up to the commitments they'd made as a result of which the reconstruction program in the south was negatively affected. So we undertook, particularly as chair of the post-conflict reconstruction committee to interact again with the donors to try and address that matter. And finally of course we discussed with the Sudanese government the need for the Sudanese government to act against people who might have committed crimes against humanity. The sort of matters that become subject to prosecution in the International Criminal Court, that it's important that the Sudanese government should itself act against [unclear], arrest and charge these people.

Presenter: If we can just come to your visit here in France, you do come here at a time when there's an election. Why did you choose to come now?

President Thabo Mbeki: No, we thought that it would be important to see him before he leaves office, because… I mean, during the years of his presidency, President Chirac, these are the years in which in fact you had the development of the bilateral relations between South Africa and France, to the level where they are now which is in fact very good. We've also worked very closely with France, and President Chirac, with regard to African questions, individual African questions. Côte d'Ivoire and others, as well as the evolution of the relationship between NEPAD and the G8 in particular. Which of course has expanded into NEPAD and the UN, NEPAD and the [unclear] countries, NEPAD and the European Union and so on. It's important not to lose the experience, the capacity, the knowledge, the authority of somebody like Jacques Chirac, who's been an important player in French, in European global African politics for a very long time. And indeed I was very glad when he told me that he… and would like as… now as a private citizen, would like to come to South Africa before the end of this year, so that indeed we can then look at how we can utilise him as a resource.

Presenter: You discussed with President Chirac where to from here, but do you get a sense that the candidates will stick with the program and the policy towards Africa?

President Thabo Mbeki: He has been talking to them about France's relations with South Africa. About France's relations with the rest of the African continent. And he is quite reassured that whatever the outcome of the elections, essentially whoever gets elected as president of France will not depart from these positions predicated on strong, good bilateral relations between South Africa and France. And cooperation between South Africa and France with regard to African questions, and African concern about these fundamental issues that worry… that worry the peoples of Africa. That it doesn't really matter who gets elected as president, that he's [unclear] is that all of them will want to continue to address those issues.

Presenter: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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