The Deputy Secretary-General — Remarks to the African union peace and security council

Johannesburg, 13 June 2015 – I thank you for the opportunity to address this distinguished body.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked me to convey to you his warm greetings and his deep gratitude for the leadership and partnership of the African Union in the pursuit of peace and security in Africa.

Africa continues to make major strides in consolidating security and promoting prosperity and human rights.  The number of African conflicts is on the decline.  The African Union has pronounced itself with foresight against unconstitutional change of governments.  The African Peer Review Mechanism and the AU Peace and Security Architecture play a vital role.  There has been progress towards an African Standby Force and more rapid reactions to security threats.

Yet, we face serious challenges to peace, as today’s meeting, focused on Burundi and South Sudan, attests.

Not long ago, Burundi was hailed as a success, following more than a decade of hard work to consolidate peace.  Today, we are at a critical juncture.  We stand on the verge of controversial elections.  It is undeniable that the issue of the third term has become a source of tensions and divisions in Burundi.  If no constructive way forward can be found soon, these divisions threaten to produce yet another serious cycle of violence.

An important point of departure is the decision of the Summit of the East African Community on 31 May.  Concrete steps must now be taken to create conditions conducive for credible and peaceful elections.  This means security for all, disarming of militias and freedom of expression and the media.  We encourage the parties to conclude their dialogue and prevent the situation from deteriorating.  We hope that all Burundian leaders will preserve the spirit of Arusha and place peace and national reconciliation above all other interests.

Through the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Mr. Said Djinnit, the United Nations has been working closely with all stakeholders to defuse tensions and facilitate political dialogue.  You can count on the UN to continue to do so, in support of our common goal of lasting peace in Burundi.  For this process to bear fruit, regional and international engagement will be necessary.

Let me now turn to the deeply troubling and dangerous situation in South Sudan.

Fighting and violence continue to escalate.  There are reports of appalling and widespread human rights violations.  Women and children are not spared.  The conflict has now displaced more than two million people.  The pain and suffering experienced by this young nation is tragically eclipsing the promise of its independence.

The UN mission, UNMISS, works hard to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians.  UN agencies continue to provide essential humanitarian aid.  But the scale of violence, displacement and despair creates protection and humanitarian needs, which no peacekeeping or assistance operation is equipped to meet.

IGAD, African Union, United Nations, governments and other actors continue to press the parties to finally find a political solution to the conflict.  We welcome the appointment of former President Alpha Konaré as AU High Representative for South Sudan in order to enhance the IGAD mediation, which is at the centre of our efforts.

It is important that we show the parties a single way forward, one path that has the firm support of the region and the international community.  A strong position from this Council will demonstrate common resolve to bring a resolution to a crisis which undermines regional and international peace and security.

Let us also remember that a lasting agreement will require national reconciliation, as well as provisions for power-sharing or, Chairperson Zuma puts it, responsibility-sharing, and accountability.  The United Nations is ready to actively contribute to African efforts to bring peace to South Sudan.  This war, this nightmare, must come to an end.

Finally, Excellencies, in a broader perspective, we welcome the close collaboration between the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.  We are especially appreciative of the close cooperation with the AU Commission, not least with Commissioner Chergui, on conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  In these areas, we encourage the African Union to further integrate human rights in its work to prevent conflict and address threats to peace and security.  We must not wait for human rights violations to turn into mass atrocities before we act.

We believe that UN collaboration in support of African-led efforts is essential in achieving lasting peace in Africa.  The United Nations is committed to strengthening the strategic partnership with the African Union and its regional communities.

We face challenges in a troubled world – yes.  But I feel confident that together, the African Union and the United Nations – as partners for peace, development and human rights – will rise to meet them.  We are both stronger if we stand side by side in our common struggle for a life of dignity for all.