Opening Remarks by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the ACIRC Summit, Pretoria, 5 November 2013
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency, Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Ato Hailemariam Dessalegn,
Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui,
Chiefs of Staff of Defence and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Communication
I wish to welcome you to South Africa for the convening of this important meeting which aims to enable Africa to act swiftly and independently in response to the urgent security challenges this continent faces.
It would be recalled that during the May 2013 Summit that marked the 50th Anniversary of our continental organisation, the former Organisation of African Unity and now the African Union, we as Heads of State and Government called for the establishment of an African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises.
This was aimed at providing a transitional mechanism while the full operationalisation of the African Standby Force and its Rapid Response Capability is in the process of being established.
This decision came about due to the realisation that independent and swift African responses to crises that arise on our continent could not wait while the building blocks of the African Standby Force are carefully being put in place.
While we fully support the realisation of the Standby Force, we believe that the time has come that African Leaders must be able to act in the interim – swiftly, decisively and when needed.
Furthermore, when we took our decision in May this year, we realised that in order to ensure African solutions to African problems, we needed both the will and the commitment - within the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture - to put in place an African Force that could respond to these immediate calls for intervention.
We realised then, that we should have our own capability that would obviate the need to call on external partners to assist - the case of Mali is still fresh in our minds. We need to ensure that we are not helpless or slow to respond without the help of external partners.
It should be stated at this point, that we again express our appreciation to the international community, who showed their willingness to respond - with the requisite urgency - to our calls for help to ensure the restoration of law and order when a crisis was erupting.
Indeed, such rapid response and intervention enabled the people of Mali to conduct free and fair elections in a short space of time.
Today we are pleased to see that Mali is rebuilding its institutions and governance structures, despite the fact that the north of that country is still threatened by rebel forces with malicious intent.
It is our firm belief that Africa can, and has the capacity and the means to act swiftly and decisively.
A glaring example of how Africans can together solve their problems was recently demonstrated in Somali, where the IGAD countries decided, after a long period talks, to solve the problem by driving out the insurgents or rebels, and installed a proper government.
We have the capacity and means to act swiftly and decisively, together as African countries.
This is why you are here at this important gathering today.
Following the Summit decision calling for the establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, appealed to the Members of the African Union in June 2013, to confirm their individual and collective commitment to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises.
She also appealed to the AU Members, where possible, to pledge to see its realisation in the shortest possible time.
In fact, we are here today to ensure the swift operationalisation of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises and to provide a framework for countries who wish to lend their voluntary support to do so.
It must be emphasised that we cannot allow the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises to be born through a lengthy process that would defeat its very purpose.
We are therefore meeting today in order to meet three objectives:
i. To exchange views on efforts made to date on the operationalization of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises;
ii. To update each other on the status of the pledges made to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises;
iii. To identify ways and means to effectively support the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises and hasten its operationalization, including through the establishment of a Working Group to develop proposals on the modalities for the operationalization of the African Capacity for Immediate Response.
Our meeting today, therefore, hopes to achieve an outcome that, at least by the end of 2013, will have a mechanism that can breathe life into our aspirations for African ownership and leadership in immediately and urgently responding to security challenges faced by this great continent.
Our Chiefs of Defence have worked hard to prepare the concept, and specific aspects of the roles and functions of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises, the operational concepts, the command structures, planning and training, to name but a few.
Their presentation to us will facilitate our discussions and enable us to take decisions, fully cognisant of the gravity and impact that such decisions will have.
It is, I believe, fully understood that the deployment of such a Force will be squarely rooted within the prescripts of the African Peace and Security Architecture, and be guided by international law and practice related to the deployment of an international rapid reaction force.
The objective of our deliberations and the setting up of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises is not to discard the duty of the international community, particularly that of the United Nations whose Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Rather, the objective is to ensure that Africa contributes in a more active and substantive manner to collective security, as provided for in the United Nations Charter, in a spirit of partnership and burden sharing.
Chairperson of the African Union, and fellow Heads of State,
During the year in which we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of African unity and independence, it is our firm belief that, once this mechanism called ACIRC is established, it will stand as a legacy and a practical monument to the future peace and development of our peoples.
We should all realize that today, we do have the capacity and will to do so. All what we need is to better organize ourselves as our founding fathers of the OAU/AU did in 1963. At the time they called for African unity and action to liberate our continent that was still under the yoke of colonialism. Our call today is: Let us broaden and deepen our unity in action to defend our hard-won independence, freedom and democracy.
Let us get rid of all conflicts in our continent. Let us work actively to develop our continent, providing African solutions to African problems.
The time to manage our own affairs as Africans is now. We must therefore work together to develop our continent, to change the quality of life of African citizens for better.
Africa is rising economically, politically and socially, and is increasingly taking its rightful place in matters affecting international governance and the world order.
Therefore, we must have the courage and the vision to create conditions of peace that will enable the unfolding of the full potential of our beloved continent.
Although today's Summit does not comprise the full participation of all Member States of the African Union, it does bring together those volunteering countries that have expressed their willingness to take the initial steps, and are responding with the requisite sense of urgency that the situation demands.
It is hoped that the rest of the continent could follow suit when they are ready.
We must stress again the voluntary nature of this Mechanism and it is hoped that the leadership shown today, could inspire others to follow.
With these words, it is hoped that we can realise the establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises at our gathering today.
I trust that we will be successful as Heads of State and Government in taking steps towards greater African Ownership and African Solutions to African problems.
I Thank You.
Issued by The Presidency