Monday, 20 February 2023
PEACE AND STABILITY IN AFRICA IS VITAL FOR OUR OWN PROGRESS
Dear Fellow South African,
I have just returned from the 36th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads and State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The engagements and discussions we always have at such summits confirm that our country’s fortunes are inextricably linked to those of our continent.
Growth and development across Africa contribute to our progress as a country. They open opportunities for trade, investment and cooperation in areas such as technology and innovation.
By the same measure, conflict, instability, and economic deprivation in other parts of the continent often have a negative impact on our country. South Africa is host to many refugees and asylum seekers. As a country, we have comprehensive refugee protection laws and a constitutional framework that deals with the challenges that people fleeing conflict and persecution face.
At the same time, South Africa has a high number of economic migrants. We have seen how this places a strain on many of our public services and how this has contributed to social tensions between our people and migrant communities. These tensions have sometimes led to violence against foreign nationals, which we must firmly condemn and work together to prevent.
As I said in the State of the Nation Address two weeks ago, for the sake of our own stability and prosperity, we are duty bound to pursue, support and participate in interventions that will bring peace, stability and development to our continent.
South Africa is the chair of the AU’s Peace and Security Council for the month of February 2023, and one of the meetings we convened and chaired was on the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It is of great concern that the conflict in the Eastern DRC shows no signs of abating, with the latest cycle of violence being fueled by the resurgence of the M23, an armed group that was thought to have been dismantled back in 2013.
We cannot but be moved by the dire humanitarian situation in the DRC and horrified by the scale of violence unleashed on civilian populations, particularly on women and girls.
South Africa has been actively engaged in peacebuilding efforts in the DRC and we provide troops to the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade, a UN stabilisation mission.
To stop this conflict, we need to address the root causes of the conflict, among them the illegal exploitation of mineral resources and competition between countries in the Great Lakes region. That is why we have called for the resumption of dialogue, de-escalation of tensions between warring parties and the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups from the eastern DRC. The decision of the AU Assembly welcoming the deployment of the East African Community Regional Force to enhance regional peace and security in the DRC is to be welcomed.
Several other challenges loom large on Africa’s peace and security landscape. Recently, there have been unconstitutional changes of government in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Sudan, and all four member states remain suspended from the AU. The involvement of foreign fighters, armed groups and mercenaries in African conflicts, as well as the rise of terrorism and violent extremism in Somalia, the Sahel region and northern Mozambique, also pose serious threats to the continent’s stability.
The Peace and Security Council is seized with the challenge of securing predictable, adequate and sustainable financing for AU peace and security activities. We have called for the United Nations to fund Africa’s peace efforts. We welcome the fact that the AU Peace Fund is on track to meet its funding targets.
Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has played an active role in UN and AU peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts in Burundi, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Liberia and Darfur.
Our country is the fifteenth largest contributor of uniformed personnel among UN member states, and is the sixth largest contributor of women peacekeepers.
Last year the UN’s Under-Secretary for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said that South Africa’s contribution to MONUSCO had been “essential to efforts to build peace” and that outreach efforts by our female peacekeepers had greatly strengthened the mission’s relationship with Congolese communities.
We remain committed to use our experience of negotiation, political dialogue and peacemaking to support people elsewhere on the continent in the grip of conflict and in the throes of transition.
South Africa continues to play an important role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including in the reforms process in Lesotho and through the SADC mission to Mozambique, which is battling an insurgency in the country’s north.
Through supporting peace building efforts and by deepening our bilateral relationships with fellow African nations in pursuit of trade and investment, we are playing our part towards meeting the aspirations of the AU’s Agenda 2063 to achieve the Africa we want. At the same time, we are helping to create conditions that will enable our own stability, growth and development.
With best regards,