The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Mushikiwabo Chairs UN Conflict Debate

A HIGH-LEVEL UN debate on identifying the root causes of conflict, particularly on the African continent, was yesterday chaired by Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in attendance.

The meeting, held at UN headquarters in New York, was also attended by Tekeda Alemu, the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN, representing the Chairperson of the African Union, and Elliot Ohin, the Togolese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, among other council members.

Mushikiwabo told the meeting that democracy and good governance are not the only tools for conflict prevention in Africa.

"Another is regional and sub-regional integration. The vision of the African Union is to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent, driven by its own citizens and capable of standing as a dynamic force in the world," she said.

"Another important tool for conflict prevention in Africa is justice and reconciliation. As you may be aware, Rwanda is commemorating this month the 19th year of the Genocide

perpetrated against the Tutsi. For Rwanda, justice and reconciliation are inexplicably linked. After much trial and error, the Government and people of Rwanda came to embrace a homegrown system of reconciliatory justice, known as Gacaca."

The last four decades have seen UN peacekeeping missions in Africa fail to address the root causes of conflicts and civil strife on the continent.

According to Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, addressing the root causes of conflicts in Africa is one of the core areas to be looked into, during the country's one month presidency of the UNSC.

The forum, held under the theme, "Prevention of Conflicts in Africa: addressing the root causes, " provided a platform to participants to discuss possible mechanisms to prevent the underlying causes of conflicts on the continent.

"Around 70 per cent of the Council's agenda is on African conflicts. However, none of these is the result of an unavoidable clash between countries or peoples, that is why Rwanda chose the theme," the diplomat said recently.

Nduhungirehe observed that all conflicts occur according to a similar pattern, and have deep-rooted causes. He cited the legacy of colonialism, nationalism and identity, ethnic tensions and discrimination, lack of rule of law, violation of human rights, corruption and bad governance among the causes.

Ban Ki-Moon pledged continued UN support for efforts by regional African organisations to prevent conflict.

"Conflicts breed where there is poor governance, human rights abuses and grievances over the unequal distribution of resources, wealth and power," he told the 15-member body in an opening address.

"Tensions simmer where people are excluded, marginalised and denied meaningful participation in the political and social life of their countries. Unrest flourishes where people are poor, jobless and without hope," he said, stressing that mediation efforts must not just be pacts between political elites that address the immediate political problem, but must also allow all stakeholders to participate.

Previously, Rwanda has actively engaged in finding home grown solutions aimed at consolidating post-conflict peace and security by sharing her post-Genocide recovery experience with other countries.

The ministerial-level meeting examined the effectiveness of the AU Peace and Security Architecture, particularly early warning mechanism and the Panel of the Wise, with a view to enhancing African conflict prevention capabilities.

Established in 2007, the AU Panel of the Wise is a five-member group of eminent African personalities tasked with supporting the continent in finding sustainable solutions to conflicts and consolidating peace.

ICC motion rejected:

Earlier, Rwanda alongside six other countries on the UNSC rejected the inclusion of a reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Presidential Statement issued ahead of the meeting.

Initially, Rwanda prepared a draft statement to be delivered at the meeting; however some countries on the council insisted on including the work done by the ICC in the communiqué.

But Rwanda together with six other Council members rejected the idea.

Mushikiwabo criticised the partial justice rendered by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"If any country in the world has reason to support a robust system of international justice, it is Rwanda. However, we do not believe that the ICC, as it operates today, fulfills a constructive role in preventing conflict," she said.

"Rather than delivering justice and preventing impunity, the ICC has shown itself subject to political manipulation from outside conflict zones as well between vying factions within them."

Mushikiwabo added that Rwanda "cannot support an ICC that condemns crimes committed by some and not others or imposes itself on democratic processes or the will of sovereign people. Such a court cannot facilitate reconciliation which is a vital precursor to peace."

Rwanda, both as a sovereign nation and as an African member of the Security Council, will continue to uphold the principles of justice and fairness, and ensure that the independence and sovereignty of the continent is respected, she added.

Eight countries on the UNSC at the moment, including Rwanda, are not signatories to the Rome statute that established the Hague based court, which has been accused of being used as a political tool against targetted politicians on the African continent.

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