Intervention by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane at the Ministerial Meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on the situation in the Sahel region (open session), Bamako, Mali, 20 March 2012
Your Excellency, dear brother, friend and Prime Minister of Mali, the Chair of our Meeting, Foreign Minister of Benin, who is representing the Chair of the AU, Other representatives of the AU present with us here, The representative of the UN led by our friend, Said Djinnit, Representatives of our regional organisations of the AU, in particular ECOWAS, Representatives of cooperating partners and partner countries present here today, Honourable Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen
My delegation would like to take this opportunity to, first of all, express our full support to our dear brother and colleague, Honourable Minister Boubeye Maiga, of the Republic of Mali, for his leadership as the Chair of the Peace and Security Council of the AU for the month of March 2012. Honourable Minister, thank you for making this meeting possible and thank you for the warm welcome and the hospitality that we are becoming accustomed to.
Indeed, South Africa welcomes the convening of this Ministerial meeting of the Peace and Security Council to consider the situation in the Sahel, which is aptly being held in Bamako, within the region affected.
I must also thank the Chairperson of the Commission for the report presented to this meeting which exhaustively outlines the challenges faced within this region and the ongoing initiatives to mitigate them. Indeed, a great deal of work has been done and continues to be done at the national, regional and international levels to address these challenges.
My delegation recognises the interconnectedness of the challenges faced by this region, which are enormous and complex. Therefore, a multifaceted approach is required to address aspects relating particularly to security, development, governance and humanitarian support. Our multifaceted approach must also focus on the proliferation of arms, the threat posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime, as well as drug trafficking and human smuggling.
The plight of refugees, Chair, and Internally Displaced Persons must not be forgotten.
This situation, as we know, has been exacerbated by the crisis in Libya. It requires from us a comprehensive and coordinated response under the leadership of the African Union, the United Nations and other partners. Our intervention must entail both immediate actions and a long term approach to deal with the root causes of this challenge.
Our immediate attention is required to respond to the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons who are looking to us for urgent action and efforts that need to be made to ensure their full reintegration into their communities, including providing them with job opportunities.
We are also very concerned about the uncontrolled spread of arms and ammunition in the Sahel region emanating from the Libyan military depots. This is directly related to the increase in terrorism activities and transnational organised crime in the region which presents a threat to peace and security in the Sahel and undermines efforts, as well as gains made thus far by the region and the Continent.
Addressing this matter will require a longer term sustainable intervention. My delegation would therefore like to emphasise the importance of coordination, coordination and coordination between the countries and regions concerned in terms of information sharing and joint initiatives in border control and management, in line with the AU Border Programme. In this regard, we support the recommendation of the UN-AU assessment mission, that in addition to coordination, support be provided for capacity building on border control between neighbouring countries. There is a further need for coordination of efforts between the judicial and police services of member countries, including hot pursuit agreements, to address the proliferation in cross-border movement of arms, criminals and terrorists. This will ensure that the problem of arms smuggling, human and drug trafficking, as well as cross-border criminal activity, are addressed.
Our response to the scourge of terrorism must be done in a sustainable manner. There is a need to address the conditions enabling the recruitment of our youth in particular into this arena. Unemployment is one such an enabling factor. Therefore, as we address development challenges in this part of our Continent, we need to create a situation where the people will have a sense of optimism and hope.
In this regard, we call on the African Union and the international community, in particular the United Nations, to continue to spearhead the mobilisation of support for the Sahel region. The proposed convening of a Pledging Conference is a welcomed development which will mobilise the much needed financial support from and within the Continent and beyond.
I must hasten to say that pledging conferences also have another experience of just pledging conferences. Here, because of the immediate needs, we think those who pledge would also come back to make good on their pledges.
We also have our own responsibilities as governments to strengthen at the national level, capacities necessary for socio-economic development and effective counter-terrorism responses.
As a country, as South Africa, we have taken heed of the call made by the four core countries of this region because of the humanitarian crisis currently facing a number of countries in these areas: 1) the natural phenomena- including but not limited to drought, floods, failed crops and devastating pests outbreaks and 2) the socio-political developments – the recent political developments in the Maghreb and attendant problems it has created in neighbouring countries, conflict in the region, internally displaced persons, food insecurity, chronic malnutrition, as well as proliferation of arms.
When the four core Sahelian States - Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad, to be specific, approached South Africa for assistance at a bilateral level, our country considered three possible options for immediate relief of these needs and the fuller details and the actual amounts, humble as they may be, that we are contributing on the immediate in these four countries, this information would have to be shared with the respective countries as we will do with Mali this afternoon, followed by Niger, Mauritania and Chad.
We have undertaken to 1) donate the requested products and materials that were directly requested by these countries; 2) to contribute to the multilateral donor programmes, especially those directly involved in this crisis, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the FAO, and also the South African NGO called the Gift of the Givers, in addition to the initial input that South Africa will make to these countries, and 3) make a direct financial donation to the requesting governments with a suggestion that the funds be pooled with inputs from other donor sources relating to the emergency plan.
So our intervention, our humble intervention, in this regard, will be firstly, to provide immediate relief; secondly, to look at sustainable projects that would also be bringing into the activities of the nationals themselves; and thirdly, looking at working together with regions on issues around security, working together with regional organisations such as ECOWAS and others but also with the UN and the AU and through the AU, the UN.
The South African Government has decided to answer this desperate call for assistance of our brothers and sisters during this very hour of need. As I said earlier on, in the immediate and we would continue to coordinate other activities as we move on through the AU.
In conclusion, Your Excellencies and Chairperson,
I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to all the members of the PSC of the AU and the Commission, as South Africa will be ending its current term in the PSC Council on 01 April 2012. In line with the principle of rotation amongst members of the Southern Region, South Africa will be making way for two of its neighbours to also make a contribution to this important organ of our Union. Notwithstanding this, we however stand ready all the time and available to continue making our humble contribution to the resolution of peace and security challenges on our Continent.
To the Government and people of the Sahel, and in particular the people of Mali, you are not alone. We know what you are going through! South Africa will also stand ready to work with your region to make sure that you keep to the road you have chosen, the road of democracy and peace and make sure that indeed the elections are not aborted because of these challenges you are facing now. We are in solidarity with all of you, the four core countries in this region. In the end, peace and security should and will prevail.
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