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15 April 2013 – Security Council - Peace and Security in Africa – Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

“Prevention of conflicts in Africa: addressing the root causes”
(UN translation)

I welcome your presence here, Madam President, and commend Rwanda’s initiative to convene this debate on the prevention of conflict in Africa.

In 1994, Rwanda experienced an internecine genocide that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and that the United Nations and its Security Council were not able to stop. Therefore today no one is better placed than your country, Madam President, to know that in order to prevent a conflict, whatever its nature, it is crucial to address its root causes, which over time fuel resentment, stir up hatred and even, ultimately, lead to violence.

When a conflict looms, the United Nations uses conflict-prevention tools. The Secretary-General can use his good offices or appoint special envoys to conduct mediation. The Dakar and Libreville regional offices are there to support those efforts. For its part, the Security Council can send political messages or take preventive measures, or even impose sanctions as necessary.

However, such preventive measures, which are aimed at alleviating existing tensions in the balance of power, sometimes come too late and are thus insufficient to curb antagonisms or stop the crisis from breaking out or the recurrence of a conflict. All too often, the United Nations is reduced to dealing only with security and humanitarian questions and seeking to minimize the impact of a conflict on the civilian population. That is why, over and beyond managing the short term factors causing conflict in Africa, the United Nations must continue to work to better anticipate problems by seeking to deal as soon as possible with the root causes of conflicts. Those causes are often multiple and complex. In Mali, for instance, the swift holding of democratic elections in July will be an important stage in the process of national reconciliation, but the country must hold an inclusive dialogue so as to resolve the long-standing demands of the different segments of Malian society, which contributed to plunging the country into chaos.

Conflicts can also be linked to economic and social issues. In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it will be indispensable, so as to put an end to the recurring crisis in the region, to address issues related to the dividing up of mining resources and arable land. The failure to involve women in decision-making and transition processes is also worrisome. We should support the implementation of mechanisms aimed at ensuring their full participation in reconciliation, crisis-resolution and electoral processes.

The absence of the rule of law, police and a justice system further intensifies those factors and represents, in and of itself, a structural cause of conflict. In the absence of credible military or police forces, all too often it is armed groups that take control of a region or a State. In Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, the weakness of the army and the police is what led to the conflicts we are seeing today. In Somalia, the strengthening of Transitional Government forces will be crucial to the lasting stabilization of the country.

Justice also plays a crucial role in the prevention of conflict. It is essential because impunity for criminals always fuels resentment, which leads yesterday’s victims to want to take justice into their own hands and thereby become the criminals of tomorrow. Justice is also a permanent reminder that resort to violence is illegal and that the perpetrators of crimes, whoever they may be, will be punished. That is why the functioning of judicial institutions is key. Failing that, the International Criminal Court (ICC) must be able to punish the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. There can be no peace without justice. That is why we regret the absence of a reference to the ICC, which is an essential instrument for conflict prevention in Africa, in the draft presidential statement to be adopted later by the Council.

The great diversity of the root causes of conflicts should not represent a challenge to the competence of the Security Council. Even though economic or social issues are sometimes the causes of a conflict, the Council must be able to address them, in close cooperation with the African Union and subregional African organizations, in conformity with Chapter VIII of the Charter. The mediation conducted by President Mbeki between the Sudan and South Sudan, with the support of the Security Council, and the Secretary-General’s Framework agreement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region, supported by the African Union, shows that the United Nations and African organizations today have the ability to tackle together the specific root causes of conflicts. The actions of the Council can also be based on the principle of the responsibility to protect, which is an essential instrument to prevent atrocities. Its implementation has seen considerable progress since its consensus-based definition, in 2005. The State has the primary responsibility to protect its own population, but if it does not shoulder that responsibility, the international community has a duty to act resolutely. It cannot, at the risk of being complicit, stop at a passive principle of sovereignty and remain inactive in the face of massacres and mass rapes. In Libya, the Council was able to act preventively and it can be proud of that fact. In conclusion, I would like to express our support for the draft presidential statement that Rwanda has presented, which we are prepared to adopt.

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