HIS EXCELLENCY MR. JEAN PING,
CHAIRPERSON OF THE AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION
AT THE ROUND-TABLE HIGH-LEVEL MEETING OF EXPERTS ON HE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT IN AFRICAr 23RD OCTOBER 2008
ADDIS ABABA, EHTIOIPIA
Your Excellencies and Distinguished Representatives of Inter-Governmental Organizations,
Dr. Francis Deng,
Chairperson Abdul Mohammed,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel highly honoured and privileged by this opportunity accorded me to deliver a keynote address at this Round Table on he Responsibility to Protect in Africa, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations, International Peace Institute and the Inter Africa Group. (...)
At the outset, I would like to acknowledge and express appreciation of the African Unions beneficial and continuing partnership with all of you.
As we meet here to reflect on the challenges of the concept of responsibility to protect, we should recall the gallant efforts of personalities and legal minds who helped shape the debate and moved it forward by drawing attention to the inescapable link between sovereignty and responsibility. One of these fine minds is no one else other than Dr. Francis Deng who is here with us today.
As many of you may know, the responsibility to protect has occupied a center stage in international law and relations. In 2005, the United Nations adopted the utcome document specifically obliging member states to accept the concept of responsibility to protect. I was privileged to be involved in the process leading to the adoption of the document as the then President of the 59 session of the UN General Assembly.
As you are no doubt aware, even before the adoption of the outcome Document on the responsibility to protect, African states had already committed themselves to protect human rights and promote good governance in the continent even at the expense of using force as entrenched in article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. To remind you, that article states that the African Union shall have:
he right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.r It should nevertheless be pointed out that, the approach at the level of the continent provided safeguards, in that intervention could only be authorised by the Assembly of the Union or the Peace and Security Council and secondly only in grave circumstances such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Of course, it should not surprise many of you that the African Union adopted such a provision. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 touched the innermost recesses of the international community and particularly traumatized the continent. For the first time in treaty law, an organization took the unflinching position to promote peace, security and stability on the continent through peaceful resolution of conflicts among Member States, but also gave the right to the Union to intervene in any of its member States under certain defined conditions. Thankfully, the principle of non-indifference is now well accepted in our peace and security discourse.
Ladies and Gentlemen
There is no doubt that the provision in Article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act was informed not only by the shame generated by the Rwandan genocide but also by the realisation that one cannot be indifferent to a fire engulfing a neighbours house because it could very well end up razing his house as well. The finding by the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the Genocide in Rwanda (IPEP) that the UN, OAU and their Member States and the International Community failed the people of Rwanda still reminds us of the atrocious cost of doing nothing. With the adoption of Article 4 (h), the principle of non-indifference was fully enshrined in Africas peace and security discourse.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Turning back to the process leading to the final adoption of the Concept of Responsibility to protect, I recall that most countries of the South at the level of the Non-aligned Movement were strongly opposed to the proposal of the Secretary General. It would be true to say that they were frightened by the proposal, and with the Iraki syndrome what happened in Iraq at the back of their minds, they saw it as an instrument that could be used by the powerful countries against the weaker ones. Some talked of their fear of abuse and double standards. In particular, the Permanent Representative of an African Country made acerbic comments on the Report of the Secretary General by suggesting that it was difficult to distinguish responsibility to protect from intervention. Further, he expressed the view that it had not been the object of international negotiations and had no legal basis in the Charter or in International law. Indeed, it was generally believed that the proposal would never sail through and would be defeated or postponed.
Faced with these difficulties what I did, as President of the General Assembly, was to request for comments and observations from the Member States, which were then taken on board in the final version of the Declaration. However, the opposition still remained. The main areas of concern were the role of the UN Security Council, the notion of human security, the Human Rights Council. I held meetings with the African Group, the G77 and the Non Aligned Group. With regard to the African Group, I explained to them that this principle was already entrenched in article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act and that for this reason they should be at the forefront in supporting the proposal. I also told the Non-aligned Group that we, in Africa, were facing genocide and war crimes and could not wait indefinitely. I then decided to set up a core group or negotiating Committee of thirty-two that was regionally balanced but every one wanted to be a member of it.
Finally, after having discussed the issue with the Ambassador of Pakistan, H.E. Akram Mounir, who was one of the Ambassadors most opposed to the concept, an amendment proposed by him enabled us to reach an agreement. His proposal was to link the responsibility to protect populations to specific crimes, namely, genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This is what was finally adopted in the Outcome document during the Plenary meeting of the General Assembly in September 2005.
However, the concerns that were expressed by many States during the consideration of the Declaration are still valid and cannot be ignored. In short, the concern of States was and still is about the possibility of abuse of the principle of responsibility to protect. The sense of ownership that AU Member States have in their own institutions is not replicated in respect of UN Member States vis-a-vis the UN Security Council because of the right of veto and the role of the P5.
Kofi Annan has been quoted as having seen the post-election violence in Kenya in January-February 2008 through the lens of the principle of responsibility to protect. Certainly the African Union intervened in the Kenyan situation through President John Kuffuor and subsequently through Kofi Annan out of fear that things could get opelessly wrong. But a number of questions could be posed for your consideration at this Round Table as to what constitutes a responsibility to protect situation and whether the Kenyan experience was such a case.
What constitutes a Responsibility to protect situation?
If there is a demonstration by students, for example, at the University of Ibadan and the police reaction results in some deaths, would this be considered as a situation that will trigger the principle of responsibility to protect?
Did the Kenyan situation fall within the classic case of a government that is unable to protect its populations, or do not want to do so or is PARTICIPATING in the situation?
Did the Kenyan situation fall within any of the four crimes stated in the Outcome Document?
Why did the Kenyan government deploy only the police and not the military in trying to deal with the evolving situation?
What needs to be done to overcome the fears of States that this principle could be the object of abuse or double standards?
Why has the world community not reacted concerning Somalia, a country that has been without state authority for almost 18 years now, in spite of the killings, the terrorism, the piracy etc?
These questions are to point out some of the grey areas that remain to be clarified, in particular where we should draw the line and when the principle should be applied.
Looking at the agenda before you, I am sure that these questions and many others will occupy your minds and will merit your professional consideration.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me end by saying that as this concept has become a universal principle, it is imperative for us in Africa to think global and act local, that is, to analyze and truly understand the global challenges and find our own answers to them.
The AU political and socio-economic integration agenda is a long-term investment and we have only started with the first steps on the long and winding road to achieve peace, progress and prosperity on our continent. In doing so, we will continue to remind ourselves of our responsibilities and duties to our people and to future generations. After all, the struggle for self-determination and self-governance was grounded on the notion that we would be kinder and more caring of each other, as we were better suited to understand each others needs and aspirations. The fact that this has largely not been the case in the post independence period is unfortunate. But I believe that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. Our people expect no less. And they have a right not to expect less.
I thank you for your kind attention.
African Union Commission
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
23 October 2008