Address by the Minister of International Relations & Cooperation, H.E. Ms ME Nkoana-Mashabane to the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), Monday, 27 July 2015

Distinguished Members of SANEF,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my distinct honour to be able to interact with you today in this important gathering. South Africa continues to make a significant contribution to the realization of peace and security on the continent and the world. South Africa strives for the creation of a better Africa and a better World. Our Foreign Policy, which has the uniquely humane feature of Ubuntu at its core, means that we cannot sit by and fold our arms when our neighbours are in need. It is also in our national interest to assist. Furthermore, we operate from the fundamental premise that there can be no economic development without peace, security and stability. For the continent to successfully implement Agenda 2063 (and its first 10 years Implementation Plan, as adopted by the 25th Summit of the African Union), our continental blue-print for progress and prosperity, one of the aspirations of the Agenda 2063 is the need to Silence the Guns by 2020. This is a goal agreed to by our leaders, the Heads of State and Government and embraced by all the citizens of Africa, our beloved Motherland.

Africa is a continent on the rise, with a few of our countries being among the fastest growing economies in the world, despite some of the challenges experienced recently in the world economy, including the global financial crisis. However, there has been some setbacks in the peace and security front, as we are continuing to experience violent conflicts in parts of our continent. Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, Mali and the Sahel, Eastern DRC and Burundi are examples. Disturbing images of women and children being displaced and fleeing from armed conflict, and the emergent humanitarian crises, is a dent on our conscience and calls on all of us to redouble our efforts to put an end to these problems. More tragically, the loss of lives in these conflicts is totally unacceptable. Therefore, South Africa, like fellow member states of our Union, is committed to finding African solutions to African problems. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a member of the African Union, we have been afforded the privilege of Chairing the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) meetings for the month of July 2015, in accordance with Article 8 (6) of the Protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council. This provision allows African Union members states, fifteen (15) in number, the opportunity to chair for one month, on a rotating basis, meetings of the Peace and Security Council. Members can serve for either two or three year terms.

With regard to our chairing, South Africa has sought to put at the forefront of the agenda of the PSC for this month critical issues that are at the core of the continent’s efforts to ensure peace and stability. In essence, our engagements have been focussed on emphasising the need to enhance elements of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which includes the AUPSC itself, early warning capacity, peace-making and post-conflict reconstruction and development. As South Africa, we equally wanted to bring to the spotlight the issue of peace, just and reconciliation, particularly the need to strike a balance between these important objectives. This has of course also entailed that we needed to focus as a matter of urgency on immediate and pressing conflicts currently affecting our continent. This includes the situations in Burundi and South Sudan.

With regard to Burundi, the elections took place on the 21st July 2015. The East African Community (EAC) continues to be engaged with the situation in Burundi, and had undertaken a number of mediation initiatives. From our side as South Africa, President Jacob Zuma had dispatched a Special Envoy to Burundi at the height of the crisis, in order to increase the momentum aimed at achieving a cessation of hostilities and bringing peace to that sisterly country.

Furthermore, an Open Session was held by the PSC on 23 July 2015, focussing on the issue of Peace, Justice and Reconciliation. The objective was to re-emphasize the importance of the key elements underpinning efforts to bring healing in societies currently afflicted by and those emerging from conflicts. As we seek lasting solutions to the crises, the session examined the relationship between these elements, and how to balance and sequence their implementation. During the engagements on the issue by the Permanent representatives, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society actors, the experiences in South Africa, Sierra Leone and Rwanda featured prominently and provided important lessons of how societies can overcome tragic events and rebuild themselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to now focus on a Ministerial Session I had the opportunity of chairing last week Friday, on 24 July in Addis Ababa. The meeting received briefings from IGAD and the intra-party political process and also received the report of the Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, which was established by decision of the AUPSC and led to the appointment of His Excellency Olusegun Obsanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as its chairperson. 

The Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), chaired by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, provided an update on the status of its mediation efforts and the difficulties experienced. The current impasse among the conflicting parties is of particular concern. IGAD confirmed that a Proposed Compromise Agreement is being prepared for the protagonists in the conflict. It is important to note that a decision was taken by the AU Summit held in Sandton in June this year that an Ad Hoc Committee be establish to assist IGAD in the mediation process. The countries appointed to the structure represent the five regions of the continent and are South Africa, Algeria, Rwanda, Nigeria and Chad. This expansion seeks to provide collective impetus to existing efforts and be able to complement these.

In addition, we received a report on the intra-party political process that include the ruling parties of South Africa, The African National Congress, and Tanzania, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, who have engaged the conflicting SPLM factions in a mechanism which aims to complement the existing peace processes. The EPRDF of Ethiopia has also been involved in this track.

In terms of the report of the Commission of Inquiry, the Commissioners presented brief highlights of both the main and minority reports. The meeting was unanimous in its view that while it condemned impunity and lack of accountability, the peace processes should also be nurtured and promoted. Given the urgency of the situation in South Sudan, the meeting called for the convening of a Summit of the AU Peace and Security in August 2015 to receive the reports of the Commission and the Ad Hoc Committee of the AUPSC. It is expected that further concrete steps will emerge out of this meeting, in terms of charting the way forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The work of pursuing peace is relentless and demanding, and we cannot even pause for a moment. For the remaining days of the month of our chairship, South Africa will preside over a meeting on enhancement of the continent’s Early Warning Capacity (EWC) and another on revitalizing the Post-Conflict and Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) mechanism in Africa. While the former seeks to examine our capacity to detect potential threats through the use of appropriate preventive instruments, the latter meeting will focus on mechanisms, processes and programmes needed to reconstruct countries emerging from conflict and to avoid relapses back into crises. Central to the above two themes is the imperative of identifying and addressing the root- causes of conflicts, with the ultimate aim of achieving sustainable  peace and development in our continent.

In carefully deciding to concentrate on the aforementioned areas, in addition to receiving the report of the Commission of Inquiry, I have no doubt that South Africa has made a significant contribution to peace. Going forward, we will continue to remain fully engaged in challenges facing our continent, beyond our membership of the African Union Peace and Security Council.

Thank You

ISSUED BY THE DEPATMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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