Interview with President Mbeki on the Conclusion of the AU Summit
Questions and answers
Question: Mr President, the Summit of Heads of State and Government has reviewed the audit of the African Union – where do we go to from here?
Answer: Well there are two elements to this. One of them, I should say that the African Union has been concerned about the effectiveness of the African Union, the efficiencies of their institutions, the capacity of the institutions of the African Union to do the things that they're expected to do.
So indeed an audit was commissioned. It is a very thorough audit, it looks at all of the institutions of the African Union and the report was then discussed by the executive Council, the Council of Foreign Ministers and the summit has agreed that the Foreign Ministers should hold an extra-ordinary meeting three months from now which would have another look at that audit so that it can then take the sort of final decisions in terms of implementation, but I'm saying it's focused on this particular matter of ensuring that the African Union works efficiently and effectively with regard to meeting all these goals that we set, African integration, African development and so on. So we then have to await the finalization of that which relates to the functioning of the African Union at the next Summit in July.
The other matter of course which the executive council has been asked to look at were matters that relate to the Union Government which the executive council did.
It looked at that and said there was indeed a need for time to do more work on the issue. What has been decided is that that work will now be taken up at Heads of State and Government level instead of it being continued at Foreign Ministers level and that the same Committee of ten that had been set up to prepare recommendations for the executive council on the Union Government would now be upgraded as it were to Heads of State level to continue the work again to report at the next summit in July.
So, any specific decisions about what should happen with regard to the Union Government will then be considered at the next Summit with this committee of ten now made up of Heads of State and Government, building on the work that been done by the executive council with that committee of ten reporting to the full assembly.
So with regard to both matters, that's the strengthening of the institutions of the African Union and this matter of the Union Government decision would them come out of the July summit, the July assembly of African Heads of State and Government.
Question: Mr President, we'll recall that in Ghana, there was a bit of tension, or should I say debate, those calling for the more gradual approach and those wanting a wholesale move towards the Union Government, is this still there?
Answer: Well you will remember that the Ghana summit concluded by adopting what was called the Accra Declaration, which represented the united view of the Union on how to approach this matter.
It's on that basis that the Executive Council, that the Ministerial committee first and then the executive council approached this matter.
This same mandate that has been given to the committee of ten, now at heads of state level.
It is the same mandate that is reflected in the Accra declaration. So there's no debate about that because that mandate is the same mandate that's already been agreed. The question is what practical steps can be taken to give effect to what was agreed in Accra. So the debate about the more fundamental approach to this thing was resolved in terms of the Accra declaration and as I say the mandate of this committee of ten Heads of State and Government is the same as was agreed in Accra.
Question: Mr President, the theme of this summit, the Industrial Development of Africa, the President also mentioned in your speech that there's been one declaration after another. What have the Heads of State said on this particular issue, the programs of action going forward?
Answer: Well I think we must say that, I think it was very good that the assembly of Heads of State and Government gave itself an opportunity to look at this matter of industrialization because of this very fundamental challenge on the African continent, that in order to achieve the economic progress that everybody agrees about, you can't achieve that progress on the basis of continuing old economic relations and essentially people are saying we can't continue to be just exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactured goods, we must ourselves become a manufacturing continent. It was very good that the Assembly confirmed that.
But I think even more important was then to say the Assembly endorsed the program of action that had been worked out by the Ministers of Industry, all of them from across the continent, as you would remember they met in South Africa and agreed on that and beyond that to say alright, we've agreed on this broad framework, it is now necessary again to have a look at that broad framework again to translate it into something that can be implemented so that you move beyond the stage of having a wish list.
To say now practically these are the things that we must do in order to advance the continent, to move the continent forward, with regard to this matter of industrialization and hopefully there will indeed then come out of this further interactions by the Ministers of Industry – these more focused, more specific, more targeted interventions that have to be made.
So that instead of our just staying at the level of saying the continent must industrialize, to answer the specific questions, what is the continent going to do practically to industrialize because you can't do everything at the same time.
What comes first, what comes second and so on. So that's the next stage with regard to this process.
I'm very glad that there was this possibility to sensitize the entirety of the political leadership on the continent to the importance and urgency of this matter and hopefully that gives the necessary impetus to all the African Governments indeed to focus on this matter and not just continue to be satisfied that, well this year we've managed to export more commodities and because of high commodity prices, we've made more money and so on, because you need a structural change.
We must say also say that the second important matter that relates to economic questions was the decision that it is necessary to strengthen the NEPAD structure. So an appeal was made to everyone to meet their commitments in terms of the financial contributions to NEPAD, affirming the principle that this is an African initiative and therefore as Africans, really we must surely make certain that we actually finance it. So indeed even while we were here many commitments were made already to respond to ensuring that NEPAD has got the necessary finances.
And the second element of that was the important decision that was taken in 2003, because NEPAD was a decision of the African Union, it's a structure and a program, an institution of the African Union. But because we wanted to make sure that it really does kick off, it sort of operated somewhat separately from the institutions of the Union, but it's been agreed, in fact for some time, since 2003, that there must be proper integration between NEPAD and the structures of the Union. So again it was agreed that that must happen now, that'll strengthen both the NEPAD system and the capacity of the African Union to respond in a practical manner to these development challenges that face the continent.
Question: Mr President, as the Summit was taking place, of course all eyes were on Kenya. Has anything further been said, any decisions or will it be left to Kofi Annan, the Former UN Secretary General.
Answer: Yes indeed you are quite correct, I mean there was very deep concern about the situation in Kenya. But you remember that the mission that is led by Kofi Annan is an African Union mission.
So already the then current Chair of the African Union, President Kufuor of Ghana had intervened on behalf of the Union, put in place this task team and so well, really what all the Union did was to confirm those earlier decisions and expressed support for the Kofi Annan mission and of course a commitment to support and strengthen as well as a general appeal to all of the players in Kenya to work wit that team to end the violence, seriously negotiate an agreement. Because for the African Union this is work in progress because of what has already been done, represented as we are currently by Kofi Annan, Benjamin Mkapa, Graca Machel, it’s an AU team.
But of course also a matter of grave concern that was raised was the situation that is developing in Chad and the decision was taken that there should again be an African intervention to try and get that matter sorted out so that Colonel Gadaffi, Egypt, together with President Sassou Nguessou of Congo Brazaville would constitute the team that would engage the Chadian on this matter to see, and everybody else concerned, to find a resolution to this matter.
It's clear with the developments that are taking place currently in Chad that that's an urgent intervention that with the evolving situation, I'm sure that that team, together with Peace and Security Council will have to see, you know, how it intervenes because as we were sitting here, I mean current reports were that the rebels have managed to take control of N'djamena, the capital. But that's some news that we're getting as were sitting here. Those are the things we need to be verified and to see what is the impact and so on. But there is therefore that decision that the AU must intervene in that matter.
Question: Mr President, and there was also a meeting of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security. Is it true that the President had to brief it on the Zimbabwean situation? If so can you share with us what the briefing was about?
Answer: You will remember that we were asked by SADC in March 2007 at an Extraordinary Summit to act as facilitators to try to find a political solution to the situation in Zimbabwe.
We asked, when we knew we were coming to a meeting of the Assembly, that we meet with the members of the Organ to present a report on developments.
The Summit of the Organ very warmly welcomed that the Zimbabwean negotiators, working with the Facilitator, have completed negotiations on all issues. All matters have been resolved.
The SADC Summit of the Organ conveyed its gratitude and compliments to the Zimbabwean negotiators and the facilitator.
What remains to be finalized in a procedural matter – when does this come into force.
The Summit of the Organ urged the Zimbabwean negotiators to continue engagement on this matter.
The Summit of the Organ also renewed the mandate of the Facilitator.
Question: Mr President, but as the facilitator with a renewed mandate and having engaged for as long as you have, are you confident that those procedural matters can be dealt with before the elections.
Answer: Well we have to engage. You see, we have got to engage it to get an agreement on it and part of the discussion among the Zimbabwean parties has got to do with the timing. Nobody disagrees, the constitution must be, at some point, must be enacted, there's no debate about that because it's been agreed. Question of timing, do we do it before the election, after the elections, this is the matter that is in dispute. So we have just got to continue, as SADC Summit said, as facilitation, we've got to continue engaging the Zimbabwean parties so that they find each other on this matter. That's our task and indeed I think principally the task of Zimbabweans. But we certainly will then as the SADC summit said, we'll continue to facilitate those discussions.
Question: Mr President, talking about conflicts, South Africa was involved in a conflict and lost on the football field. Bafana Bafana has already crashed out. How do you feel about their performance?
Answer: Well I'm sure all of us, the whole country, I'm sure is not happy that they didn't bring the cup home. And I'm quite certain that all of us are not happy that the team got out, couldn't even reach the quarter finals. So would have wanted at least, if not, even if we don't get the cup, we would have gone much further than we did. But I think that we also need to recognize the fact that both SAFA and coach Perreira clearly, and I think quite correctly are preparing for 2010 and so you could see that the way they brought in a lot of young players so that you build towards 2010.
I think that that's obviously a correct decision. It would not, I don't think it would have been correct to say in order to win the Africa Cup of Nations, let's just stick with the old players, we will see after the Africa Cup the matter of preparing a team for 2010. I don’t think that would have been correct. So sure we would have wanted a better progress in Ghana, but I think that the work that is being done by the football association and the coach to prepare for 2010, it's showing good promise, very good promise. I think if we sustain this and as a country continue to give the necessary support to the team, to the coach, to the football association, encourage them and indeed say, you see, it's not just South Africa hosting the world cup, it's Africa that's hosting the world cup, and I think it's very important indeed that as South Africa and as the African continent we really make a very, very good showing in 2010 and hopefully the experience that these young players have gained in their African tournament will help in terms of speeding up their development and you know, sensitizing them very strongly to the challenge they face and we face to make sure that in 2010 we perform well.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
2 February 2008