had been colonised by the great European powers for over 400 years. From the 16th
century, it provided the growing industrialised continents of Europe and North
America, with millions of young people, captured against their will as slaves
to work in the plantations of the Northern hemisphere.
Between 1500 and 1900,
approximately 4 million African slaves were shipped to Island plantations in
the Indian Ocean, 8 million to Mediterranean countries and 11 million to the
It was this slavery - this
mass importation of slaves from the continent of Africa - that fuelled the
growing economies of what are now the richest and most powerful countries in
the world. Combine this with the pillaging of the world’s most precious natural
resources and it is not surprising that there are to this day, conflicts all
over our continent.
Africans realized that
only through unity among themselves could they salvage themselves. That is why
African unity remains a sine qua non for the creation of a better life for all
Our march to freedom
lasted for over four centuries and entailed the defeat of colonialism and
imperialism. For the first time, in the history of our continent, we hold the
possibility of shaping our own destiny. Now, working with Africa’s friends, we
are busy with this task.
The Organisation of
African Unity (OAU), founded in 1963, focussed its activities on the liberation
of the African continent. Having
achieved this goal, with the arrival of democracy in South Africa in 1994, it
was clear that development and prosperity were not going to follow
There was a need to
re-define the mandate of the continental body hence the African Union with its
principal task to prioritize the economic development of the continent.
But the objective of
development was never going to become a reality in an atmosphere of instability
and widespread turmoil and conflict. This made conflict resolution a priority
task in order to set the stage for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development
(Nepad) and other initiatives.
It was for this reason
that the newly formed African Union set out to secure peace agreements among
several of its members and to address several conflicts. The need to create a
peacekeeping capacity on the continent was central to this approach.
Conflict and wars have
over the years led to loss of life, displacements and misery in many parts of
the continent. The need to solve, manage and prevent conflicts and to deal with
other socio-economic challenges has become urgent, especially in the light of
Africans recognize the
reality that without peace, security and stability, there can be no
development. Thus, for us Africans and our partners in this quest for
continental development, conflict resolution is a top priority.
A World Bank study
released in February 2007, states that “conflicts are now arguably the single
most important determinant of poverty in Africa”. It goes on to say that “recent
research suggests that the incidence and severity of conflicts in Africa have
had a robust, negative effect on the growth rate of income…countries that
experienced civil wars had an average income 50% lower than that of countries
that experienced no civil war.”
A study carried out in
2004 confirms that “the direct cost of war is only a fraction, often less than
10% of the indirect costs. Far more people die from war-related disease and
malnutrition than from battle death”.
These conflicts need to be
understood, in order to be solved.
They cannot be subject to
knee jerk reactions and one size fits all solutions. Our collective
interventions in the past have had an impact. But as the World Bank report says
“the fact that wars are ended doesn’t necessarily mean that their underlying
causes have been addressed. For peace to be sustainable over the long run, the
root causes of conflict need to be addressed”.
As our quest for peace and
stability unfolds, we are putting mechanisms in place to carry us forward. The strengthening of the African Union, the
creation of the Africa Standby Force and the SADC Brigade are all part of the
strategy to resolve conflict, to encourage development and to create a better
life for all on the continent.
Conditions on the
continent had to be factored into our military planning.
are not favourable to conventional military exercises making logistical support
for peacekeepers extremely difficult. We
have a huge geographical space to cover.
Africa does not have the
financial resources to support large contingents of peacekeepers. Many African
countries are saddled with huge backlogs of underdevelopment compounded by
unmanageable debt burdens and are therefore not able to sustain peacekeeping
Moreover, we are still at
an early stage of industrial development. Thus we have to contend with a lack
of infrastructure which constrains our movements. These factors directly impact
on how we carry out our peacekeeping mandate. In this context, strategic lift,
both maritime and aerial, become essential for success.
Therefore in the course of
our growing practical involvement in peacekeeping in Africa, we conceived of
and subsequently raised, in continental and international fora, a number of
initiatives which are shaping our approach to peacekeeping.
In Burundi, for example,
because the UN’s assessment was that conditions were not ripe for its
intervention, African leaders took the view that they must work to create such
conditions as would be conducive for UN intervention.
They took the initiative
in persuading contending parties to commitment to negotiate. They then
facilitated the return of the exiled leaders to their home soil for
negotiations to take place there. It was
as these objectives were realized that the UN revised its initial reluctance to
commit to the process and came on board.
As things stand now, in
any theatre where conditions are not conducive for negotiations to take root,
Africans will apply the same approach. History has been made. It is there to
One of the lessons from
Burundi and the DRC has been that conflict must go beyond formal elections. Our
involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has resulted in a more
holistic approach to Peacekeeping. Peace keepers, who are placed into a
conflict area, must provide security and protection for the civilian
population. They must first and foremost stop the ongoing fighting. They must
then be able to re-direct the energies of the people into reconstruction
activities. They must be able to pursue integrated approaches to repatriation,
resettlement, reintegration and rehabilitation of refugees, the internally
displaced, ex-combatants and their families, paying particular attention to
women and child victims of violence. They must plan and implement comprehensive
and well blended disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration
(DDRR) programmes as a basis for consolidating safety and security.
Central to making our
interventions sustainable, and in line with the principles of Security Sector
Reform (SSR), we have to ensure that the thinking of the leaders of new
democracies is directed towards respect and loyalty to their Constitution. Peacekeeping
interventions do not end with elections.
The alarming number of
conflict prone countries underscores the need for a broader approach to
conflict prevention – one that avoids an artificial divide between
pre-conflict, crisis and post-conflict. It also indicates the need for an
appropriate mix of political, security, humanitarian and developmental
Securing a just,
sustainable peace in a conflict-prone situation means building strong
transparent states with professional, civilian-led military and police. It
means developing a democratic framework that tolerates diversity.
It means building an open
civil society that promotes democratic governance and personal security.
And it means instilling in
all state institutions – but especially the security forces – a culture of
democracy rooted in respect for the rule of law and individual rights and
Our concept of “security
sector reform” (SSR) encompasses democratic oversight, civil society, defence
reform, intelligence and security services, border management, policing,
justice, prisons and private security companies. The object of SSR is to create
a secure and safe environment for the affected state and its population,
through the re-establishment of the architecture and structure of the state.
Its inclusive nature encompasses all sectors of the security cluster.
The activities in the
security cluster are based on the concept of human security as stipulated and
defined in the African Union’s peace and security committee’s mandate, the
Common African Defence and Security Policy.
Whilst the concept of Security
Sector Reform encompasses the transformation and stabilization of the whole of
the security sector, on our continent it deals predominantly with defence
It is a political process,
and to be successful, it must be participatory. It must involve local ownership
and because it has to pay attention to non-state actors and security and
justice institutions, its approach must encompass the whole of Government. But
it is more than governance, it is also about operational effectiveness.
In other words, when the
strengthening of new democracies becomes a priority, the security organs of the
state must be transformed and secured.
An important element of
peacekeeping is post conflict reconstruction. Experience has taught us that we
should ready ourselves to stay in theatres of conflict long enough to allow for
fledging democracies to allow for stability to take hold and sustain itself.
Only when we are certain
that success achieved will not be reversed can we withdraw permanently.
At this present moment we
are actively canvassing to retain a United Nations presence in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. It is much too early in the process of democratisation
in that country, for an “impartial” force to withdraw. And even if we cannot
persuade the Untied Nations to remain, African forces are committed to stay.
The genuine desire of the people of that country for peace and stability must
We also have to take note
and adjust to our changing strategic environment.
In the present era,
advances in military technology have resulted in the increasing need for highly
skilled military personnel. We have seen, over the last two decades, the
emergence of a global trade in hired military services. This, combined with
massive cuts in defence budgets, has resulted in the privatisation of many
sections of the defence function.
These private military or
security firms have now assumed greater roles in conflict areas, in the
guarding of installations, the delivery of logistical supplies, the provision
and running of aircraft etc. The
expansion of this relatively new industry raises a range of concerns. A number
of human rights abuses have been committed by some firms and in many instances
their operations have led to a rise in internal tensions. They have been used
even to stage military coups in certain states. These firms, falling as they do
outside the prescripts of government, are not regulated by international law
nor are they accountable to international bodies.
The potential for abuse is
high and there must be serious concern that the industry’s position in the
legal sphere remains ambiguous.
Thus regulation, at
national level, offers the hope of both superior legal definition and
The appearance of
non-state actors in different shapes and forms, including private security
firms and private military companies needs to be reckoned with. Private
military/security companies are able to intervene in conflicts tilting the
balance of power in favour of their paymasters. They have the potential to
undermine legitimate, constitutional democracies.
Whilst “terrorism” has
been identified by the ‘developed world’ as the biggest threat, we maintain
that poverty and underdevelopment are the biggest threats to democracies in the
developing world because it exposes our people to manipulation by those of
Competition for ‘scarce’
resources is another source of insecurity across the continent. It is in this context that we can understand
the situation in Somalia.
But let me say that in our
increasingly globalised world, armed conflict has become subject to
In many areas like the
Sudan, the conflict that is raging does not “fit” the definition of Armed
Conflict. This raises a number of questions
The Advisory Service of
the International Committee of the Red Cross states that: "International humanitarian law applies only
to armed conflict; it does not cover internal tensions or disturbances such as
isolated acts of violence. The law applies only once a conflict has begun, and
then equally to all sides regardless of who started the fighting". How then do
we apply these rules and regulations to peacekeeping?
How do we make sure that
those who are no longer taking part in the fighting are protected?
And what if the deployment
is a Chapter 7 deployment? The ICRC says
“it is forbidden to kill or wound an enemy who surrenders or is unable to
fight; the sick and wounded must be collected and cared for by the party in
whose power they find themselves”. Do these rules apply when the definition of
the armed conflict differs from the book definition?
These are the issues that
we are debating when preparing our soldiers for peacekeeping operations.
The demands placed upon us
by the ‘war on terror’ should not detract from the sound principles the
international community has agreed on about the conduct of any war.
The development of our
continent is essential for the normalisation of international relations. We cannot continue to allow the continent of
Africa, so rich in natural resources, to be ripped apart and torn asunder by
the greed of other countries that are more developed, and who are in need of
these precious resources.
The African Union is being
strengthened on a daily basis. We strive
to build our continental body aware of the complexities of working with
countries who have different levels of development, and subsequently different
We have a lot to learn
from Spain’s experience in working with the European Union.
Thus, for us Africans and
our partners in this quest for continental development, conflict resolution is
a top priority.
But it is our hope that
the growing partnership between the African Union and the European Union will
influence and shape the reform of world bodies such as the United Nations to
allow the voices of the developing world to be heard. In this context we welcome Spain’s Africa
We have increased our
presence at the United Nations in the hope that the support needed by Africa,
to implement its peacekeeping challenges, will be heeded.
I thank you.
Minister of Defence of the Republic of South Africa