May 25, 2004

President launches African Peace and Security Council

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is the current chairperson of the African Union (AU), declared that the time has come for peace, security and stability to be installed in Africa for good. Speaking at the ceremony marking the official launching of the AU's Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, Chissano said that, since the creation of the AU three years ago, conflicts in Africa had been reduced substantially, opening prospects for the energies of the region to be directed towards sustainable programmes of economic and social development, and the struggle against hunger, poverty and disease. Chissano expressed his hope that the work of the Peace and Security Council will make a valuable contribution to reversing the current status quo of despair and marginalisation in Africa, and bring more self-esteem and dignity to Africans. He noted that peace and security are indispensable conditions for sustainable socio-economic development, and pointed to Mozambique itself as an example of the positive impact of peace on development, and on recovering the dignity lost in conflicts.

Chissano stressed that the success of the Council's work would depend essentially on the commitment of the AU member states, and of the regional groupings that are the building blocks for the future African Economic Community. The immediate challenges facing the Council, he said, were to speed up the creation of the African stand-by force, and the Early Warning System. He appealed to the AU's various geographical regions to show commitment in creating the brigades that will form the African force, the political framework for which should be approved at the next AU heads of state summit, to be held in July, probably in Addis Ababa. The African stand-by force is to undertake peace-keeping operations, including military interventions, if justified. The force, which should also be concerned with humanitarian operations and post-conflict reconstruction, should be set up, in a phased manner, by 2010. "Through this Council, we hope to eliminate the occurrence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa", said Chissano.

Also of key importance was the principle of "non- indifference" - that, Chissano stressed, was of key importance in dealing with situations "where governments, which have been democratically elected, lose legitimacy for various reasons". The Mozambican leader noted with concern the reappearance on the continent of mercenary organisations, referring to the detention of alleged mercenaries in Zimbabwe and in Equatorial Guinea, accused of plotting the overthrow of the Equato-Guinean regime. "We are concerned at the reappearance of a phenomenon we thought had been eradicated from our continent, mercenaries", Chissano said. "Dissuasive and punitive measures should be taken so as to protect the peace which we are achieving with a great deal of sacrifice". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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