6946th Meeting (AM)
Secretary-General: Unrest Flourishes Where People Are ‘Without Hope’;
Council Also Hears from African Union, Foreign Ministers for Togo, Rwanda
Capping debate in the Security Council today on ways to anticipate, prevent and respond more nimbly to conflict across the vast and varied African continent was a presidential statement that stressed the need to address the root causes and regional dimensions of the violence and underlined the valuable contribution of regional and subregional organizations in ensuring the coherence, synergy and collective effectiveness of those efforts.
In particular, the 15-member body acknowledged the efforts of the African Union. It also recognized the importance of a comprehensive strategy comprising operational and structural measures for preventing armed conflict and encouraged the development of steps to address its root causes — such as poverty, weak State institutions and political exclusion — and to ensure sustainable peace, reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in that regard.
Opening the discussion was United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said “conflicts breed where there is poor governance, human rights abuses and grievances over the unequal distribution of resources, wealth, and power”. Similarly, he said, “tensions simmer where people are excluded, marginalized and denied meaningful participation in the political and social life of their countries”. Unrest flourished where people were poor, jobless and without hope.
Whether in the Horn of Africa or the Great Lakes region, the continent was afflicted by interconnected instabilities spreading from one territory to its neighbours, he said. The challenges were particularly acute when States were fragile and armed movements operated with impunity across porous borders, he said, citing Mali as an example where that had paved the way for transnational criminal organizations and terrorist networks to disrupt regional stability and compromise territorial integrity.
Pledging support for African organizations, he said the United Nations’ own efforts across the continent benefitted from reinvigorated regional organizations, which were playing a stronger and strategic role as key partners. He cited, among examples, United Nations’ efforts to strengthen the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) conflict prevention and early warning architecture, as well as its 10-year capacity-building partnership with the African Union.
Also key, he said, was ensuring that agreements, once reached, were fully enforced, and that mediation efforts were not just pacts between political elites that addressed the immediate political problems, but allowed all stakeholders to participate. Noting that 20 African countries were holding elections this year, he said the “relatively peaceful” polls in Kenya were an example of how electoral disagreements could be handled without recourse to violence.
Speaking on behalf of the African Union’s Chairperson, Ethiopian Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said that “more than any time in the past, Africa is ready to play its part for peace and stability in the continent, and it has the wherewithal to be a good partner for the United Nations and the Security Council for the realization of this objective”. However, no one could deny that Africa still required the strong support of the United Nations and Security Council.
At the core of the conflicts, said Elliot Ohin, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, was the lack of structural adaptation of State institutions bequeathed by colonialism. That had generated power struggles, which had turned into ethnic rivalries, to the detriment of national identity. There were also economic factors, which, to a great extent, weakened the African State. Growing poverty, difficult access to basic social services and lack of opportunities for young people also had weakened State structures.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for April, said in her national capacity that there was no issue more important than tackling conflicts. She asked whether a peacekeeping operation could truly be said to have fulfilled its mission if there was a failure to analyse what really caused the conflict in the first place.
She noted that processes adopted by the African Union promoted good governance as a conflict prevention tool, and she emphasized the importance of regional and subregional integration in conflict prevention in Africa, leading to a united, prosperous continent that was “driven by its own citizens”. A strong, prosperous African Union, with subregional building blocks that could deal with conflict prevention without outside help, would further that goal.
She drew attention to Rwanda’s home-grown “Gacaca” court system, which had handled 2 million cases over the last 10 years. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had established useful jurisprudence on various issues, though it had handled only a small number of cases over its 17-year existence. While she supported the International Criminal Court, she did not believe it was playing a constructive role in conflict prevention, as political manipulation from outside and from within conflict zones was hampering its activities.
Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of Guatemala, Argentina, Luxembourg, China, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and France.
The meeting was called to order at 10:26 a.m. and adjourned at 1:14 p.m.