Programme Director,

In a year marking the centenary of the ANC, it gives me great pleasure to address the Commonwealth Club of California on the role our nation has played in conflict resolution on the African continent.

In the short time in which our young democracy has re-engaged the international community, we have made considerable progress in terms of contributing to a peaceful and stable African continent. Our approach to international relations has most greatly been informed by ournation’s history, its fight against the oppressive forces of racism, and subjugation, under the banner of the African National Congress (ANC) in leading our peoples toward the freedoms and opportunities of which our rainbow nation enjoys today. Our approach draws inspiration from the painful experiences and glorious struggles of the rest of the peoples of Africa, who defeated the forces of colonialism. Today, we are inspired by ordinary peoples efforts to peacefully bring about change in their countries without having to resort to armed violence.

South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy is looked to, by many, as a model for the resolution of conflict throughout the world, and not least in Africa, whilst continuing to serve as inspiration to other nations attempting to free themselves from of the vices of war. Commenting on the hope that South Africa symbolised in 1996, former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher eloquently posited:

“If this diverse, once-divided nation can be united by common values and aims then so can any multi-ethnic nation in Africa and the world. If South Africa can forge a community of interest with the neighbours it once fought, then any region can come together”.

Through this acknowledgement, South Africa has sought to play an active role in conflict resolution across the African continent from a very early stage in our democracy. In part, we did this in order to ensure that we affirm our role and responsibilities to the continent’s people as well as the international community.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by first asserting that as early as 1992, the ANCadopted a robust human security approach that squarely positioned human rights at the centre of our nation’s security thinking. The state-centric and militaristic “Total Strategy” policies of the apartheid era were quickly disposed of in favour of multilateralism, cooperation and dialogue. Furthermore, thedestabilising former apartheid defence forces were transformed into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) which was reoriented toward a greater human security paradigm – with an expanded role for dealing with underdevelopment, the spread of disease, refugees, terrorism and organised crime.

Accompanying such developments, was the adept early observation by our first democratically elected leader, former President Nelson Mandela, that while South Africa would intervene to resolve the continent’s festering disputes on moral grounds, such intervention was by all means a strategic consideration as well. By noting the great degree of interconnectedness between South Africa and the continent, it was in our nation’s best interests to play an active role in conflict resolution in order to not fall victim to the many forces which had brought ruin to its various parts. South Africa’s foreign policy responses to crises and conflict across the continent can subsequently be understood through this confluence of moral and practical reasoning and justification.

History and Values informing our Approach to Conflict Resolution in Africa

South Africa’s conflict resolution role in Africa is deeply rooted in our liberation history, and is fundamentally premised on two key tenets, namely: Pan-Africanism and South-South solidarity. As an integral part of the continent of Africa our struggles as a nation are deeply intertwined with our pursuit of a better Africa, and indeed a better world. Specifically, we understand that the peace and prosperity of Africa are indeed matters which are intrinsically tied to our national interest.Subsequently, we are guided, and remain committed, to our firm belief that regional and continental integration provides the bedrock of our continent’s renewal – in terms of socio-economic development and political unity – as well as being essential for the prosperity and security of our nation.

On account of our struggles against the forces of oppression, the promotion and respect for human rights, democracy and equality are enshrined in our constitution, and affirmed within the defining documents of our history – with particular regard to the Freedom Charter of the ANC. Subsequently, these idealsplay a leading role in our domestic policies noting the high ground these issues occupy in our national consciousness, as well as within our many and varied international engagements.

Encapsulating the spirit of these principles, South Africa’s policies are guided by the philosophy of Ubuntu, meaning “humanity”. This overarching philosophy reflects our nation’s belief that we affirm our humanity when we affirm the humanity of others. This philosophy has further informed our unique approach to global issues. It has provided the basis for our recognition that it is in our national interest to promote and support the positive development in Africa and within the greater international community.

South Africa therefore champions collaboration, cooperation and partnership-building over conflict, informed by our deep desire for a just, humane and equitable international order of greater security, and economic justice. We have strived to always account for the connection between peace, security and development, especially within our role on the African continent vis-à-vis conflict resolution.

Since 1994, we have prioritised the African agenda by promoting an Afro-centric foreign policy rooted in African renewal, aimed at strengthening efforts to negate the legacy of colonialism as well as neo-colonialism. This is what informed our championing of continental initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), as well as lending considerable support to the transformation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU).

Multilateralism – Comments on the UNSC / AU PSC / SADC OPDS

Distinguished guests,

Given these efforts and initiatives, South Africa has wholly embraced multilateralism as an approach to confront the many challenges facing the continent as well as the international community. To this effect, we have assumed leading roles in numerous fora, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the AU and the United Nations (UN). As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) from 2007-2008, as well as for the period 2011-2012, we have promoted peace and security with an emphasis on Africa, whilst we have duallyworked to strengthen cooperation between the UNSC and regional organisations such as the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC).Moreover, it gives me great pride to assert that our second candidature to the UNSC, endorsed by SADC as well as the AU, received 182 out of the possible 191 votes of Member States, a resounding endorsement of the positive role that our young democracy has played, especially on global security issues, since re-entering the international community eighteen year ago.

Advancing and strengthening the African agenda was indeed the flagship foreign policy of South Africa during our time as non-permanent member of the UNSC. We recognise that no factor has hindered the realisation of the continent’s vast potential more than the chronic outbreak of crises and conflict. Indeed, armed conflict kills thousands every year, creates humanitarian disasters, wipes out livelihoods, makes sustainable economic development impossible, and destroys hope for a better future. As long as conflict persists, too many of our continent’s peoples will be condemned to live in conditions of poverty, misery and underdevelopment. It was against this backdrop that we began our second term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, eager to make the most out of a golden opportunity to get this powerful organ to put its weight fully behind the determined efforts that Africa has been making to break the back of the scourge of violence and conflict on the continent. During this time we have been entrusted with a number of leadership roles, including the chairmanship of the UNSC ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, the chairmanship of the UNSC 1540 Committee on weapons of mass destruction and non-state actors, as well as serving as Vice Chair of the Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia Sanctions committees.

This development was strongly aligned to our efforts to support the AU in reinvigorating continental peace and security initiatives; of which the continent’s regional economic communities (RECs) feature prominently as the effective building blocks of a robust, institutionalised and inclusive peace and security architecture. Accordingly, South Africa, during its term as the Chair of SADC, has worked tostrengthen the development community as one of the implementing agents of Nepad, as well as strengthening the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS), with considerable attention paid to the inter-linkages between the SADC-OPDS, the AU-PSC and the UNSC.

One of the outcomes of these efforts, aided by the support of other African non-permanent members of the UNSC as well as like-minded states, is that, currently, the AU-PSC and the UNSC now convene annual meetings to deliberate on issues on their respective agendas. The two organs also collaborate on key peacekeeping missions and conflict situations, such as the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as well as the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

While these are indeed positive indicators, especially in terms of the improving strategic political coherence between the AU and UN, a number of critical challenges persist. The case of Libya aptly demonstrates the shortcomings of the UN-AU interface, as the pursuit of other agendas by non-African actors resulted in attempts to marginalise an African solution to the crisis. Despite the development of an AU roadmap, NATO forces completely dismissed the proposal in favour of a military solution. The consequences of these actions, which were carried out in the name of the UNSC, have spilled over into other countries in the region – notably Mali – and have subsequently turned a country-specific conflict into a destabilising force for the greater region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Key to many of our efforts was South Africa’s hosting of the 2 July 2002 Durban Summit which inaugurated the AU as a new pan-African institution, replacing the OAU. As the Union’s first chair, for the period 2002-2003, former President Thabo Mbeki helped lay the foundations of a robust continental peace and security architecture anchored on regional mechanisms, and effectively linked the organisation to the UN’s infrastructure on global peace. Following this, South Africa’s then foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected to the chair of the PSC, and the opportunity was further used to advance the objectives of a better Africa.

The protocol which endorsed the PSC, at the Durban 2002 summit, provided for, inter alia, a continental early warning system, an African Standby Force (ASF), an eminent Panel of the Wise and a Special Peace Fund as the primary pillars of the AU peace and security architecture. While significant in itself, South Africa played a leading role in shaping the formative years of the AU peace and security architecture by,among other things, advocating an early and rapid response to continental challenges. These early efforts have had a considerable impact on the efficacy of the AU, with special regard to the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in 2003.

Furthermore, the Constitutive Act of the AU and the AU-PSC provide the legal foundation of Africa’s new security framework. In a break with the past, its most innovative provision is that even though the Act confirms adherence to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, it concedes the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to the decision of the Assembly – in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Our international engagements within multilateral fora has further been informed by our belief that a number of institutional shortcomings, with regard to continental and global peace and security, must be addressed in order to allow for more effective responses to international crises. As the established global multilateral architecture has its roots in the post-Second World War context, it is our belief that this architecture is no longer able to adequately respond to the challenges facing the increasingly interdependent world of the twenty first century. Accordingly, we will never lower our voice regarding a need to reform the global political institution, in particular, the UN system, in pursuit of greater equity in decision-making, balanced against efficiency and effectiveness.

Of prime importance to this argument is the issue of Africa’s under-representation on the UNSC. Despite more than seventy percent of Security Council deliberations being centred on conflict issues in Africa, with eighty percent of UN peacekeepers deployed in Africa, not a single country is a permanent member of the Council. As pointed out by President Jacob Zuma during a Security Council Summit debate on 12 January 2012:

The failure of representation on a permanent basis... in an important body such as the UN Security Council, points to the necessity and urgency for the fundamental reform of the United Nations Security Council so that it can become more representative and legitimate. This body, which believes and preaches the culture of democracy and the will of the majority, which is the key element in a democratic system, cannot at the same time, in some of its key structures, practice something that contradicts the purposes and the principles of its founding Charter.”

South Africa has therefore consistently worked in partnership with other African nations, as well as emerging nations and progressive forces from the global South, in forging a collective vision aimed at confronting the security agendas of the developed world with the development concerns of the South. Through these engagements, we have supported the formation of groupings of like-minded states outside oftraditional multilateral structures, with regard to groups such as India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA), Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) and the G20. Whilst supportive of these groups for consensus building on key political, security and economic matters, South Africa recognises the centrality of the UN and works to ensure that these groupings compliment, rather than detract, from the primacy of the organisation. Indeed, our work outside of formal multilateral structures has in many respects bolstered our efforts within such formal structures, and particularly in our role as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.

Through our simultaneous membership of the UNSC as well as the AU-PSC, our policy positions which have been adopted and pursued since January 2011 have been largely informed by the positions of the AU as well as consultations with the other African non-permanent Member States of the UNSC. This was in line with our firm belief that continental ownership for the achievement of sustainable peace is a principle which must be upheld, given our past experiences on the UNSC (2007-2008) which underscored the extent to which many of the world’s major powers may often take decisions which are not progressive, nor in Africa’s favour. South Africa has therefore worked hard to set forth the African perspective and act in concert with other African members to be a countervailing force in defence of Africa’s aspirations.

Trends in Conflict in Africa

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We recognise that the changing nature of conflict is indeed one of the primary forces driving global change and the environment in which states conduct their international relations. Our foreign policy therefore remains responsive, especially on the African continent, in order to meet the recurring and new challenges in Africa.

While these challenges are many and varied, one fundamental challenge stemming from the changing nature of conflict on the continent, and indeed elsewhere, is the increasing incidence of intra-state conflict. What has been especially worrying in this regard is the disruption of the continent’s sustainable development as intra-state conflicts have come to increasingly reflect regional and continental challenges in terms of economic and institutional development as well as political stability. Furthermore, intra-state conflicts in Africa are increasingly marked by the prevalence and influence of non-state actors, often engaging in asymmetrical warfare, as well as by the commercialisation of state security apparatuses – with reference to,among others involvement, the role of private military and security companies. Moreover, the growing role of information technology to facilitate transnational organised crime cannot be understated.

Case Studies

Our efforts aimed at bringing greater alignment to the work of the UNSC and AU-PSC is built upon an intensification of the work our government has already undertaken in conflict prevention, resolution, management and post-conflict stabilisation in African countries such as Sudan, Comoros, Burundi, the DRC, Lesotho, the Central African Republic and elsewhere. As part of this contribution we have encouraged the substantial deployment of SANDF as well as South African Police Service (SAPS) men and women to numerous countries across the continent, as well as playing leading roles in conflict and post-conflict societies in Africa through mediation and preventive diplomacy.

Following a 1996 peace process launched by the OAU in Burundi, former President Nelson Mandela, aided by the prior efforts of the former President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere, engaged in vigorous diplomacy as the process’s key mediator – culminating in the significant Arusha Accord of August 2000.The accord provided a durable framework for peace and most importantly laid the foundation for a three year transitional government. Continuous rounds of negotiations skilfully headed by our then Deputy President Jacob Zuma drummed up support from significant regional and international actors, and cajoled the fractious Burundian political parties and armed groups into adhering to the accord.

What followed was a clear break from Burundi’s experiences in the 1990s, characterised by armed ethnic violence, and a fragmented population besieged by the violence of numerous rebel groups. Moreover, the accord called for the establishment of an international peacekeeping force, of which South Africa provided a substantial troop presence up until the AU assumed control in April 2003 as part of the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB).

What is especially notable about South African involvement in this case, is the fact that it was the first AU-led peacekeeping mission. Due to the initial and sustained efforts of South Africa, the UN adopted UNSC Resolution 1545 in May 2004, establishing the United Nations Operations in Burundi (ONUB), thereby taking control of the situation from the AU on 1 June 2004.

The application of this growing South African experience and capacity can be evidenced in cases such as DRC, in which we emerged as a principal broker between the many conflicting interests and parties to what became known as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. These efforts were aimed squarely at addressing the escalating crises associated with the “Second Congo War”, in which numerous states from Southern and Central Africa were drawn into the maelstrom of an internationalised civil war. Throughout the dialogue process, South Africa maintained a constant diplomatic presence, and further supported the efforts of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) through its provision of peacekeepers. Our efforts at conflict resolution with respect to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue(ICD) culminated in the Global and All-Inclusive Peace Accord which was signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002, and endorsed at Sun City on 2 April 2003. This accord provided for a transitional constitution and a power-sharing government incorporating all of the warring factions. South Africa has never ceased to support efforts aimed keeping the agreement and the total stability of DRC.

Similar cases of South African intervention towards conflict resolution can further be seen in the cases of Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. In all, South Africa has worked to affirm its role on the continent either bilaterally or through the multilateral organisations of which it has significantly contributed toward, in order to ensure the peace and prosperity of our continent’s peoples. We havesteadilyworked through SADC since 2009 in Madagascar in order to mediate and seek a peaceful solution to the country’s political stalemate – following the unconstitutional seizure of power by AndryRajoelina from the incumbent Marc Ravalomanana. We have also been actively engaged in the many challenges arising from the political contestations in Zimbabwe throughout the past decade. Former President Mbeki played a leading role in this regard, working around a very complex political situation which had the potential of leading Zimbabwe into complete state collapse, a situation of dire consequence for the Southern African region. President Mbeki not only acted within his role as a South African statesman but dually through his mandated role by the AU and SADC as chief mediator to the Zimbabwe crisis. Similarly, former President Mbeki was tasked by the AU to mediate a solution to the political standoff in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010, a situation which was further compromised by competing external interests and forces.

South Africa has also played an active role in North and South Sudan, with particular emphasis in the conflict-ridden Darfur region. We have supported the implementation of the comprehensive agreement between the Khartoum government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), which was brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and signed in Nairobi in January 2005. We have also chaired the committee for the post-conflict reconstruction of Sudan created by a decision of the AU’s Executive Council in Maputo in July 2003. Since the humanitarian crisis in Darfur erupted in 2003, we have supported the AU’s efforts and capacity-building of its mission in Sudan. Moreover, South Africa joined a core of 15 countries which ensured troop, civilian and police deployments to the AMIS. Moreover, we have also spearheaded the AU’s post-conflict reconstruction efforts in South Sudan, whilst we dually chaired the 20 October 2004 meeting of the AU PSC which resolved to significantly expand AMIS from under 500 troops and civilian police to more than 3000.

Concluding Remarks

Whilst these efforts underscore the steps our nation has taken in implementing the ideals and principles which inform its foreign policy responses to conflict throughout Africa, such endeavours must be tempered by a holistic understanding of the many challenges facing our country, as well as the continent, with regard to institutional, political and financial constraints.Nonetheless, remaining cognisant of our influence as a middle power, South Africa has played to its strengths within the international system in order to promote the African agenda and seek a more dignified and equitable place for the continent’s peoples within this system. By executing our policies through continental initiatives, formal as well as informal multilateral fora, and through sustained bilateral engagements, we have consolidated our role on the African continent as a nation reborn, in stark contrast to the policies of the former Apartheid regime.

In recognition of the current shift in the global balance of power, in conjunction with the rapidly closing capability gap between the developed world and the emerging global south, we remain responsive to the fact that an environment of unparalleled opportunity has been created for countries to expand their influence by playing leading roles on key issues within their regions. South Africa has accomplished this by taking the policy initiative, building institutions and originating solutions throughout the African continent, with a considerable emphasis on initiatives directed at the peace-security-development nexus. This has greatly enhanced our nation’s influence in international fora, allowing us to more greatly work toward utilising this opportunity, and take the initiative in shaping a new, more humane, secure and just global order.

I cannot think of a better expression to capture what has been our approach to international relations in general, and African challenges in particular, than what was said in 1978, by the late President of the ANC:

However forbidding the sacrifice we in South Africa have to make as a price of victory, it is dwarfed by the greatness, the supreme nobility and above all, the absolute justice of the course for which we fight. Inevitably we shall win. Africa will be totally liberated, a new and truly democratic world order will be born, and as the ANC declared in its Freedom Charter, there shall be peace and friendship.

Thank you


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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa