Statement by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane: Parliamentary Debate on the Central African Republic, Cape Town, 23 April 2013
When the OAU met at its Summit of the last Millennium in Algeria in July 1999, our leaders adopted the historic Algiers Declaration which observed that “The end of the Second Millennium represents for Africa, the demise of an era characterized by colonisation and its tragic trail of domination, plunder and negation of the African personality”. And that: “It is therefore with the most profound respect that we bow to the memory of all the martyrs of Africa whose supreme sacrifice has paved the way for the continent to regain its freedom and dignity”.
We can repeat these same words today as we remember our soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Central African Republic (CAR) in the service of peace in Africa.
It was no accident that the Algiers Summit declared the year 2000 as the “Year of Peace, Security and Solidarity in Africa”. This was so because of the recognition that with the era of decolonization concluded in the last Millennium (safe for the Western Sahara), peace and security was to feature high in the 21st century not only because of the hardship and suffering it causes, but also because of its dialectical linkage to development.
Since South Africa’s readmission into the international community our engagement on issues of Global Peace and Security has been informed by our understanding that we cannot be an Island of Peace and Stability in a continent of wars, conflicts and strife. This is in line with of our Vision of an African Continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, and united, and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.
This perspective is derived from foreign policy imperatives, speaking to South Africa’s national interest and the vision of a better Africa.
The crisis in the CAR is a microcosm of Africa’s challenges of the 21st century.
Our involvement in peace interventions in Africa has been in five inter-related areas, namely:
- In peace-keeping.
- Mediation and preventive diplomacy, where we work through SADC, the African Union and the United Nations to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of conflicts when they occur.
- In post-conflict reconstruction and development.
- Solidarity and providing humanitarian and political support like we are doing with sisterly countries in parts of the Sahel and North Africa.
- And our membership of the AU Peace and Security Council and the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security comes with obligations that we take seriously.
We have a peace-keeping presence in Darfur (Sudan) and the DRC. In Burundi, South Africa entered with others for the restoration of peace in that country, and stayed the full course through post conflict reconstruction and development. In South Sudan and Somalia, we continue to contribute in capacitation and the building of state institutions.
South Africa has expended significant resources and time in these five areas with notable success. In our view, the maintenance of peace and stability are critical to the achievement of a holistic foreign policy agenda.
President Jacob Zuma spoke to us from this podium early this year in his State of the Nation Address about our unwavering commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Africa.
Our participation in the United Nations has focused on the twin challenges of Security and Development on the African Continent. It is for this reason that in the 19 years of our membership to the United Nations we have been mandated twice by the Members of the African Union to serve in its Security Council in 2007/2008, and recently 2011/ 2012. During our Membership of the UNSC we have brought to sharp focus the Peace and Security challenges of the Continent and highlighted the role the AU Peace and Security Architecture plays in finding solutions to this challenges. Moreover we have emphasized the internationally accepted need for African solutions to African problems. During our presidency of the UNSC, we championed Resolution 2033 on cooperation between the UNSC and the African Union.
Just two months ago, the UN General Assembly elected South Africa again to the Peace Building Commission. All the Five Countries that are on the Peace Building Commission are African Countries. The Central African Republic is both on the agenda of the UNSC and the Peace Building Commission.
The primary mandate of the PBC is to assist countries emerging from conflicts not to slide back to conflicts, and the biggest challenge in this respect is Security Sector Reform and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (the DDR). In the Central African Republic, Security Sector Reform and DDR have been identified by the United Nations as part of the challenges. For any country to have a clear and actionable Development program it needs a strong and professionalized Security Sector and a Rule of Law. Our involvement in the CAR since 2007 in Security Sector Reform has been seen by the United Nations to be within the context of the mandate of the Peace Building Commission.
Recently, the UN General Assembly elected us to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Our membership of this crucial organ of the United Nations is informed by our understanding that there cannot be development without Security and Vice Versa in the continent. Of the 57 least developed countries in the world, 33 of them are from Africa, and the Central African Republic is one of them.
The Algiers Summit referred to above is remembered for the pioneering stance it took in rejecting unconstitutional change of government on our continent which resulted in the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government which was adopted by the OAU Summit in Lome, Togo, in 2000.
We define unconstitutional change of government as replacement of a democratically elected Government through a military coup d’état; intervention by mercenaries; armed dissident groups and rebel movements; the refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party after free, fair and regular elections; and any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.
Honourable Members, coups and rebel attacks on democratically elected governments, as well as disputes over elections and the constitution – are at the heart of our peace and security problem in Africa today. Whatever the fundamental causes, we must be firm and act decisively against the perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government. We also need to strengthen our sanctions regime, because it is clear that it has loopholes that are easily exploitable.
We have to work with the AU Commission in strengthening our continental Peace and Security Architecture, especially the operationalisation of the African Stand by Force for rapid deployment to crisis areas.
Above all, the plight of the victims of wars, especially women and children, should remain our central focus in whatever we do.
Honourable Speaker and Members,
Please allow me to conclude by returning to the Algiers Declaration cited at the beginning of this statement, whose conclusion remains relevant to this day, that, and I quote:
“Together, let us enter the Third Millennium with a genuine spirit of co-operation, with restored human dignity and a common hope in an interdependent future for mankind. In this process, Africa, which is prepared to be the master of its destiny, will shoulder its share of responsibility”.
I must add that as elected leaders in this House, we shoulder the responsibility to lead our country through trying and difficult times. We should not fail our people. We should be united and speak with one voice especially when the lives of our men and women are at stake. Africa is rising, and South Africa will not fail to play its part. CAR was not the first step, and it shall not be the last.
I thank you.