Media statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on international developments, 04 March 2013, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
In our briefing today, we will focus on (1) the general elections in the Republic of Kenya, (2) the situation concerning Saharawi prisoners in Morocco, (3) the SADC Council of Ministers which is scheduled for later this week, (4) the implications of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC, and (5) an update on our hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit.
1. General elections in the Republic of Kenya
General elections in the Republic of Kenya are taking place today, Monday, 04 March 2013, the first since the 2007-2008 post-election violence that left more than 1 000 dead and over 300 000 displaced.
The 2007/8 bloodshed was ended after intense mediation by AU Special Envoy, Mr Kofi Annan, that led to a power-sharing deal between the two main contenders, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
To guard against a recurrence of the events that followed the last election, Kenya recently adopted a new Constitution in a largely peaceful and well-run referendum. The new Constitution depicts a united Kenya that is desired by all, and acts as a bridge to heal the divisions of the past.
Stemming from the new Constitution, the Parliament of the Republic of Kenya passed new legislation on elections, political parties, ethics and leadership, the reform of the judiciary and the establishment of a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
On 27 February 2013, the head of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) reported to President Kibaki that everything the commission needed was in place in order to ensure that the elections are a success.
Furthermore the Inspector General of Police also reported that the mobilisation and deployment of 99,000 security officers across the country was underway. He said that police are under instructions to deal firmly with anyone who might try to disrupt the voting process and that there will be proper security checks before voters enter polling stations.
A South African delegation which includes government officials and members of civil society are observing the elections under the auspices of the African Union Election Observation Mission and various other accredited monitoring teams.
In recalling the positive developments that have taken place in Kenya since 2007, the South African Government hopes that the elections will contribute to the consolidation of democracy, and wishes the people of Kenya a successful, peaceful and democratic election.
2. The situation concerning Saharawi prisoners
The Government of the Republic of South Africa condemns the sentencing of the 25 Saharawi human rights activists on 17 February 2013 by a Moroccan military tribunal following 27 months of detention.
The activists had participated in a protest camp in the Western Sahara town of Gdeim Izik in November 2010 against the continued systematic repression of the Saharawi people by the Moroccan regime. This protest camp was brutally dismantled by the Moroccan security forces resulting in the deaths of several Saharawi people and leaving scores injured.
In terms of international law, a Moroccan military court does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute acts and events taking place in Western Sahara, which is regarded as a non-self governing territory by the United Nations.
We also urge the Kingdom of Morocco to release all political and prisoners of conscience as a means to begin meaningful negotiations with the POLISARIO Front.
The continuous gross human rights violations by Morocco in the Western Sahara occupied territories necessitate that the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum of Western Sahara (MINURSO) be expanded to incorporate a human rights monitoring mechanism. To date, MINURSO remains one of the few United Nations Missions without a human rights monitoring component.
It is our view that these acts of repression in the illegally occupied territories are a direct consequence of the non-resolution of the issue of Western Sahara, which we regard as the last case of decolonization on the African continent. The continued non-resolution of the question of Western Sahara serves as an extension of the difficulties experienced by the Saharawi people, the majority of whom have been in the refugee camps for over three decades.
South Africa calls on the UN to expedite the resolution of the issue of Western Sahara, by taking all the necessary measures for the organization of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in accordance with the relevant African Union decisions and United Nations Resolutions.
In his recent State of the Nation Address, delivered on 14 February 2013, President Jacob Zuma reiterated that “the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara has to be realised”. The right to self-determination was the basis upon which a democratic South Africa was founded. Accordingly, South Africa will continue to stand side by side with the sister people of Western Sahara until this inalienable right is achieved.
3. The SADC Council of Ministers
The Meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers is scheduled for 08-09 March 2013 in Maputo, the Republic of Mozambique.
The SADC Council of Ministers is a statutory meeting of the regional body which convenes annually in March and in August and discusses primarily administrative and budgetary matters.
Mozambique is the current Chair of the SADC after taking over from the Republic of Angola during the 32nd Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government held in Maputo in August 2012.
SADC continues to serve as the primary vehicle for South African foreign policy to achieve regional development and integration within Southern Africa.
South Africa’s future remains closely linked to the future of the African continent and that of its neighbours in Southern Africa.
SADC strives for balanced and equitable regional integration as a fundamental condition for sustainable development in the region and most importantly to free the people of the region from the scourges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.
4. The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC
South Africa was recently amongst a number of African countries that signed the 'Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework' for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its region.
The other signatories include the DRC, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Angola, Zambia, Central African Republic (CAR) and Tanzania.
This Framework envisages creating a 'regional oversight mechanism' to review implementation of the commitments that regional states have made in the Framework, including non-interference in others' internal affairs.
The UN, African Union, Southern African Development Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes will act as the mechanism's “guarantors”.
The accord makes provision for an "intervention brigade" that will be integrated into the 17,000 strong MONUSCO force with a mandate of "imposing peace".
This international force will be deployed along the border with Rwanda to neutralize all armed groups in the area: aside from the M23, also the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), the ADF-Nalu (Democratic Alliance-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda) and the Burundian FNL (National Liberation Force).
The neighboring nations and international community will also be called to monitor and verify the peace process in the territory through a special envoy to be named by the UN.
The DRC government pledged to introduce reforms, in particular concerning internal security, promoting national reconciliation, tolerance and democratization.
Not withstanding the Framework's mainly regional dimension, it also notably increases the institutional basis for more direct international focus on an oversight of the DRC government: it obliges President Joseph Kabila to establish a “national oversight mechanism” to review the DRC's commitments to stronger and reformed governance.
5. Preparations for the 5th BRICS Summit
Preparations for South Africa’s hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit are now at an advanced stage, with only a few weeks left before the start of this very important gathering.
This week, a number of road shows are taking place across the country as part of a nation-wide campaign to raise public awareness around the importance of South Africa’s membership of the BRICS and the benefits thereof.
Tomorrow, 05 March 2013, two road shows are taking place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, and Cape Town, Western Cape Province.
At this point, from the substance and logistics perspectives, we are satisfied with the state of readiness, and we are confident that the Summit will be a great success.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION