Opening Remarks by Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, on the occasion of the Inaugural Session of the Joint Commission of Cooperation (JCC) with the Republic of Burundi, 4 November 2022

Your Excellency and dear Colleague, Honourable Minister Albert Shingiro, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Burundi.

Your Excellency, Mr Ferdinand Bashikako, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Alexis Bukuru, Burundi Ambassador to South Africa,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Kgomotso Jolobe, South African Ambassador to Burundi,

Delegations from South Africa and the Republic of Burundi,

Mwaramutse!
(Good morning!)

On behalf of the South African Government, I wish to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to you, Honourable Minister Shingiro, and the people of Burundi for the exceptional African hospitality we have enjoyed since our arrival in Bujumbura. We are truly pleased to spend time with you in your beautiful country.

Honourable Minister,

It gives me great pleasure, to co-chair with you, this Inaugural Session of our Joint Commission of Cooperation. Though our countries have not met under the auspices of the JCC, we never ceased to engage each other both at bilateral and multilateral platforms. My delegation firmly believes that this Inaugural Session of the JCC, will rekindle and further enhance and consolidate the cordial and fraternal relations between our countries.

South Africa has a very special relationship with your country. We have accompanied and supported Burundi on its road to peace and stability, culminating in the signing of the Arusha Peace Accords. Consequently, South Africa follows developments in Burundi very closely and with great interest. In this regard, I would like to applaud Burundi for the successful and peaceful conduct of Elections in 2020 and wish you well in consolidating peace and democracy. Furthermore, I wish to reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to strengthen and deepen relations with Burundi, based on mutual respect and cooperation, and African solidarity. Since the establishment of formal relations in 1995, our bilateral relations have been characterised by both high-level visits between our countries as well as good cooperation in multilateral fora.

Today’s Inaugural JCC is indeed a historic milestone that provides a platform for frank and honest discussions on the current state of our bilateral relations and to identify new areas of cooperation. We will engage as equal partners in the quest to improve the lives of our people and address the challenges of poverty and unemployment that continue to afflict them. In January 2020, during the Senior Officials Meeting, senior officials laid the foundation and engaged vigorously to prepare for this Inaugural JCC. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed our plans to meet in 2021, but we hope that the worst of the pandemic is over, and that diplomacy will normalise once again.   The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused unprecedent deaths and suffering and devastated global economies, also posed huge challenges in terms of face-to-face conversations and meetings on significant bilateral, regional, and multilateral issues, which makes this occasion, the inaugural JCC, even more significant.

Our objectives for this Inaugural Session of the JCC, include conducting deliberations that will contribute towards the alleviation and eventually, eradication of poverty, job creation and reduction of inequality in our countries. We should explore ways to promote and protect investments in both our countries, especially because the AfCFTA has been ratified by our governments.  Equally important, is the facilitation and easing of doing business, including the identification and removal of barriers to market access for our products.

Burundi, like South Africa and many other African nations, is endowed with immense human, natural and other resources, which should contribute to the realisation of our developmental objectives and to free ourselves from the shackles of poverty, diseases, unemployment, inequality and underdevelopment. A better life for all can be realised in our lifetime, but we need to work more closely together.

It is within this context that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has become even more relevant. The AfCFTA, is a major achievement for the Continent and is seen by us on the Continent and the international community, as a ‘game changer’ and a catalyst for boosting intra-Africa trade, industrialisation, and the economic integration in the Continent. This Agreement, which also creates the basis for increasing intra-Africa investment, will promote trade among African countries. South Africa is indeed pleased that Burundi ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement on 17 June 2022.

Your Excellency, Honourable Minister Shingiro, Inter and intra-state conflicts continue to threaten the successful implementation of the Continental development agenda. South Africa has observed, with keen interest and concern, the recent upsurge of violence in Eastern DRC. We highly appreciate the involvement and efforts of the East African Community to bring peace and stability in this region of the DRC. Our Congolese brothers and sisters in this region, have endured long suffering, which is completely avoidable and unnecessary. We hope that the recent efforts of the region and rest of the international community, will soon bear fruit and end this human suffering, through the cessation of violence by all those involved and securing lasting peace.

In this regard, I wish to acknowledge and appreciate the active role Burundi plays in Continental affairs through its participation in the African Union (AU), regional bodies and its contribution to peacekeeping. Burundi’s peace keeping efforts in several African countries, such as the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), Darfur, the Central African Republic, Chad and its recent deployment of troops as part of the recently established East African Regional Force in the DRC, contributes immensely to peace, stability and security, not only in the region, but on the Continent in general. I would like to pay tribute to Burundian troops who continue to risk their lives to bring peace and stability to the Continent. Peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region is vital and contribute to a peaceful Continent.

I also wish to congratulate Burundi on its re-election to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) in February 2022, as a representative of the central region. Burundi’s long-term staunch support of Africa’s peace and security efforts and the fight against terrorism, through its contribution of troops to AU peacekeeping Missions, demonstrates its commitment to peace and stability.

We are encouraged by your government and Ministry’s active engagements to strengthen cooperation and bilateral relations with other countries in the region and the Continent. Strong bilateral cooperation amongst African countries and regional economic communities, is essential to the realisation of the ideals of Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want.

South Africa remains concerned about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Besides the human suffering, loss of lives, and wanton destruction, the conflict has exacerbated social and economic challenges facing Africa and the global South, due to heightened increases in the prices of oil and gas, as well as food production and supply. Our government has consistently maintained a clear position that the only effective and credible mechanism for the resolution of political disputes is negotiations. Wars are not only destructive and costly, but they also reverse the gains made on social development, economic advancement, and human progress. There can never be any palatable justification for war because all countries deserve peace and stability as opposed to violence and destruction.
 
Notwithstanding the threats to multilateralism and the global world order presented by the war in Ukraine, South Africa still has faith in the rules-based international system. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on the Waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on the production of vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that when the international community works together to achieve a common objective, it is possible to put differences aside and focus on priority issues confronting humanity across the globe.

I wish to congratulate Burundi’s recent accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism, at the 31st African Peer Review (APR) Forum of Heads of State and Government meeting held on 4 February 2022. This is a clear demonstration that Burundi is committed to strengthen its governance systems and structures. I would like to assure you that South Africa is ready to partner Burundi on this journey and provide assistance in the form of capacity building and training for Burundians.

To conclude, Honourable Minister, we need to ensure that this Inaugural Session of the JCC produces tangible results and measurable milestones to which we will hold ourselves accountable to achieve within the agreed timeframes. Issues related to trade and investment are critical, and we need to address all the challenges that threaten and derail the deepening and expansion of our bilateral cooperation. A clear way forward has to be agreed in relation to the implementation of the signed bilateral agreements and the review of the dormant agreements ought to be conducted thoroughly with a view to explore new areas of cooperation.

We wish Burundi well in its preparations to host the 11th Meeting of the Regional Monitoring Mechanism of the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the DRC and the Region, in February 2023.

Excellency, Minister Shingiro, I trust that we will have incisive and results-driven interaction today, which will contribute to the strengthening of bilateral cooperation across all sectors between South Africa and Burundi.

Urakoze (u-ra-ko-ze)

Thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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