Since its launch in Addis Ababa in 2007, the African Union’s Panel of the Wise has become an important component of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Consistent with Article 11 of the Protocol on the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the Panel of the Wise must continue to “support the efforts of the Peace and Security Council and those of the Chairperson of the Commission, particularly in the area of conflict prevention”.
It is vitally important that we continue the tradition of previous Panels of the Wise to assure the African Union Commission of our availability and readiness to support its conflict prevention and resolution efforts.
The Union should continue to count on our willingness to actively engage in quiet, preventive diplomacy and other forms of peacemaking in countries of concern. We must see our role as complementary to the on-going efforts of the African Union.
I have no doubt that our collective and individual contributions would strengthen the Union’s ability to better prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, wherever they occur on our continent.
As we meet this week, our attention must continue to be firmly focused on addressing the continuing scourges of civil wars, violent extremism and terrorism, human insecurity and humanitarian crises that still affect millions of our people.
It is not a badge of honour that Africa continues to generate hundreds of thousands of refugees, immigrants undertaking perilous journeys with many perishing in the dessert and at sea, as well as millions of internally displaced persons because of internal conflicts.
The ugly scenes of the African people running into forests and mountains fleeing from armed conflicts and various forms of abuse remain a constant source of concern to all of us. This is an indictment on Africa’s lack of economic capacity to create jobs for our young people as well as failure to manage our diversity necessary to mitigate internal discords and conflicts.
You may recall that during our first statutory meeting held in Windhoek in March this year, we extensively deliberated on peace and security situations across the continent. We took due note of Commissioner Chergui’s comprehensive and detailed briefing as well as his request for our support for the Union’s efforts aimed at addressing conflict and crisis situations, centred on four key geographic areas, namely, the broader Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes Region, the Lake Chad Basin Region and the Sahel Sahara and Libya.
As members of the Panel of the Wise, we took note of the enormous challenges affecting each of these regional conflict clusters in different ways and to varying degrees. These include mass displacement of civilian populations, growing terrorism and violent extremism, the challenge of managing transitions: political, peace-keeping and stabilisation operations; and the persisting weak interface between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in conflict prevention and peace-making efforts.
Of particular concern to us were issues relating to how to deal with situations where some Member States may not welcome the involvement of the African Union where the Panel of the Wise could play an important role; the need for regular interactions, including briefs between the Panel of the Wise and the Peace and Security Council; lack of financial resources; and the need to monitor key conflict drivers such as arms proliferation, poor governance, among others.
You will recall that during our Windhoek meeting, we agreed to undertake three (3) field missions to the DRC, the Central Africa Republic and Mali, respectively, during the cause of this year. Regrettably, we could not undertake any of the missions because no government was ready to receive the mission for different reasons, including scheduling conflicts. It must be pointed out that for the Panel of the Wise to remain relevant and credible, member states need to render it the necessary political support and cooperation, including adequate financial resources.
It is my sincere wish that we revisit our deliberations on these matters and, once again, put our heads together in devising a plan of action for the Panel of the Wise for next year.
I must emphasise however, that without the full cooperation of member states, the Panel of the Wise would not be able to fully fulfil its mandate.
This week, we continue discussion of the progress made with regard to one of our on-going thematic concerns, that of “Improving Mediation and Resolution of Natural Resource Related Conflicts across Africa”.
During our previous meeting, we noted with concern, how natural resource-induced conflicts, in particular over land, scarce water resources, and minerals have become the most predominant drivers of conflicts. These conflicts are likely to be exacerbated by the negative impact of climate change.
Similarly, we called for renewed understanding and the need to address national and trans boundary resource disputes through prevention and conflict resolution approaches.
In my opinion, competition for natural resources and the unequal distribution of wealth and its mismanagement can and do lead to conflicts. These pressures can also exacerbate existing ethnic or religious divides within societies and across borders.
I would like to emphasise the paramount importance of our continuing support of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise) and the Pan-African Network of the Wise (PanWise). FemWise is moving fast and I am extremely pleased to note that key steps in its operationalization have been taken this year.
Our esteemed colleague, Dr Speciosa Wandira will update us on these exciting developments. It is my sincere hope that this initiative will be an important step in addressing the lack of African women’s participation in formal conflict prevention and resolution activities as well as participation in peace negotiations and mediation.
As an umbrella network bringing together similar mechanisms at the level of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms, AU’s High Level Representatives and Special Envoys, the Friends of the Panel of the Wise, and importantly, individual meditators and institutions engaged in mediation activities at national and sub-regional levels, PanWise remains an important initiative of the Panel of the Wise.
I would like to underline the urgent need for the AU Commission, working closely with Member States, to enhance the capacity of the Secretariat of the Panel of the Wise, including through mobilisation of additional human and financial resources. This would enable the Panel of the Wise to discharge its mandate more effectively.
I would, therefore, urge that we do our utmost to revisit our work programme and calendar of activities moving forward, focusing on: (i) Panel of the Wise preventive diplomacy and mediation deployments; including updating the 2007 Panel of the Wise Modalities of Operation in light of lessons learned and best practices; (ii) Panel of the Wise pre-election and structural prevention missions; (iii), Panel of the Wise horizon scanning and thematic research; (iv) operationalization of FemWise with the deployment of its members; and, (v) Deepening PanWise’s scope and reach. This is an ambitious programme, but I am confident that with the support of Member States we can deliver!
Once again, I wish to express my appreciation to the Chairperson of the AU Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, the staff of the Commission and all members of the Panel of the Wise as well as the Friends of the Panel of the Wise for your unwavering commitment and dedicated service to our continent.
*Hifikepunye Pohamba is former President of Namibia who is currently chairperson of the AU Panel of the Wise. This is an edited speech he delivered on Wednesday this week at the 19th statutory meeting of the Panel, held in Accra, Ghana.
2018-10-26 10:12:10 8 months ago