Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Monday said there is a need to strengthen and address peace and security matters as conflicts and insecurities are the result of many challenges faced by several African countries.
He said this at the opening of the two-day 18th meeting of the African Union's Panel of the Wise which started in Windhoek yesterday, and is set to continue today.
"Our meeting today is taking place at a crucial time when most of our African countries are faced with manifold challenges as a result of conflicts and insecurity," Pohamba said.
The meeting is expected to consider the panel's plan of action for the rest of 2018. The plan of action will include building bridges between election observation, preventing and resolving electoral disputes in Africa, migration and human security, as well as the African peace and security landscape in 2018.
Raising concerns over violence, Pohamba - who is the current chairperson of the panel - pointed out that in almost all African countries, the rapid growth of youth populations, "combined with shrinking economies, have resulted in high levels of unemployment, and rapid, uncontrolled urbanisation" has been observed to be linked to violence.
He furthermore reminded the panel members of their mandate, and said in continuing where the previous panel left off, they have the duty to strengthen the African peace and security architecture through "preventive diplomacy and mediation activities".
"We also need to set our agenda, and raise critical peace and security issues affecting the African continent alongside and in support of the AU Peace and Security Council, as well as the chairperson of the commission," Pohamba told the delegates. He added that the panel must develop ideas and make proposals to the AU Peace and Security Council and commission chairperson, to promote peace, security and stability.
Turning to the recent disease outbreaks that have hit many African countries, including Namibia, the former President said he is convinced that if countries can synchronise disaster response programmes and the "strength of unity under the AU," the continent can overcome resource limitations "in addressing mother nature calamities".
Also speaking at the official opening of the meeting, commissioner of the AU's peace and security commission, ambassador Smail Chergui of Algeria, said to date, the panel has devoted its attention to four thematic reflections.
These are election-related disputes and political violence; peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa, mitigating vulnerabilities of women and children in armed conflicts in Africa, as well as strengthening political governance for peace, security and stability in Africa.
"Our continent is overwhelmed by your pan-Africanism, your readiness to support us in our quest to stabilise Africa, and prevent the occurrence of new crises. Your experience, knowledge and expertise will undoubtedly strengthen our efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts in Africa," Chergui told the meeting.
Pointing out the fact that the continent is continuously being confronted with a growing tide of terrorism as demonstrated by recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Somalia, he said the AU's expectation of the panel is understandably demanding. He thus had no doubt that panel members will carefully consider many dimensions, such as the panel's preventive diplomacy and mediation deployments, pre-election missions, horizon scanning and thematic research.
Officially opening the meeting, vice-president Nangolo Mbumba also raised the issue of conflicts in some African countries causing "widespread socio-economic and political instability," as it is very difficult for countries constantly beset with conflict to adhere to democratic principles and good governance.
"Africa requires a sound conflict prevention and resolution programme, as exemplified in the African peace and security architecture, of which the AU Panel of the Wise is an essential pillar," he noted.
Mbumba added that the continent needs to capitalise on the panel's wisdom and experience in finding solutions to violent conflicts, and to the maintenance of peace and security in Africa.
The panel comprises various former heads of state. They are mandated to support and advice the efforts of the AU Commission and the AU Peace and Security Council in the area of conflict resolution.
They also support the commission in mapping out strategies to address threats to peace and security by providing regular advice and analysis.
Apart from the Panel of the Wise, Friends of the Panel, consisting of former heads of state; former secretaries generals, and the chairperson of the AU commission, were also in attendance.