Mbeki: Africa must not revert to conflict

African leaders must ensure that countries dealing with conflict resolution do not slip back into conflict, President Thabo Mbeki said on Tuesday.

“In many instances, as we deal with matters of peace and stability on the continent, we don’t go all the way in ensuring that countries in conflict don’t revert back to conflict,” Mbeki said.

He was addressing African leaders at the Africa Forum Second General Assembly in Johannesburg.

The theme of the forum is mobilising international support for post-conflict reconstruction and development in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.

The South African president said problems in post-conflict countries did not necessarily end when the guns stopped firing and peacekeeping troops were deployed.

“Certainly, the guns have stopped firing but how stable is the country? Even currently, reflecting on the Sudan, an agreement was signed between the north and south. The guns are silent, peace has been achieved, but has peace really been achieved?” asked Mbeki.

He said the signing of a peace agreement in Sudan did not necessarily guarantee peace.

“After a very long period of conflict between the Arab and Muslim section of the Sudan and between the Arab and African non-Muslim section, is it possible that simply because an agreement has been signed that conditions exist that guarantee lasting peace, that there will be peace?”

He said the Africa Forum had a difficult but necessary task to tell leaders of African states the truth about themselves, about their countries and about the continent.

Feedback from forums was important because many parties involved in conflict resolution said “goodbye” once the guns stop firing.

“You have to be advocates to see that we guarantee peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Comoros and other African countries.”

Mbeki said the forum required the complete and unequivocal support of every government on the continent to ensure peace and stability.

He said problems in post-conflict countries were not over once a ceasefire was agreed upon, once peace keeping troops were deployed or once democratic elections were held.

“There is a need for this forum to go beyond those elections to say what has caused the conflict in the first place.”

Mbeki said a recent study on conflict reversion revealed that political, military and economic factors influenced reversion.

There was a direct link between economic growth rate and reversion.

Poorer countries were more likely to slip back into conflict because of a lack of resources, he said.

“The poorer the country, the greater its need for resources to pull it out of conflict. Therefore, there is also an urgent need for economic reform.”

He added that the forum needed resources and funding and suggested that African heads of state form a fundraising committee.

“Money makes the world go round and the forum needs money. The forum should constitute a sub-committee of serving African heads of state of government as a fundraising committee for the forum,” Mbeki said.

“I am sure that they will agree to be on the committee because they understand how much the continent needs the forum.”

The Africa Forum is chaired by the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Alberto Chissano.

It is a non-governmental organisation that promotes democratic principles and values in Africa and identifies solutions to challenges faced by African countries.

Twenty former African heads of state and government are expected to attend the forum, which ends on Thursday.—Sapa

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