Socialist Priorities in Africa at the SI meeting in Niger, 24-25 April 2006
Original : French
The Socialist International Africa Committee, hosted by the Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger, PNDS, held its meeting in Niamey on 24-25 April 2006.
Three speeches were given at the opening:
- A welcoming speech by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of PNDS-Tarayya;
- A speech by Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International;
- A speech by Ousmane Tanor Dieng, First Secretary of the Socialist Party of Senegal and Chair of the Committee.
The debates centred on three themes:
- Proactive policies for the resolution of conflicts;
- The fight against poverty: social democratic programme and priorities;
- Democratic governance in the continent.
At the outcome of these fruitful and wide-ranging discussions, the following points were highlighted:
1. With regard to the first theme related to conflicts:
A - The African continent remains marked by numerous conflicts whose main causes are:
- a recourse to force as a way of taking and keeping power;
- a deficit of democracy and bad governance;
- attempts to control the riches of the continent by outside interests;
- the instrumentalisation and manipulation of the ethnic phenomenon;
- the use of force to access natural resources;
- and the difficulties linked to the democratic transition of power and the refusal to alternate power leading more and more to abusive reliance on constitutional revisions.
B - The consequences of these conflicts are dramatic for the continent:
- they bring about huge losses in human lives;
- they deprive Africa of a great part of its potential for development;
- they make Africa the continent with the highest rate of displaced people and refugees in the world;
- they weaken the state and reduce its capacity to control its own territory.
C - To resolve these conflicts, their deep-rooted causes need to be taken into account as well as searching for a real and lasting peace. It is also imperative in our opinion to:
- promote democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights;
- fight poverty, inequality and injustice;
- guarantee the freedom of elections and their transparency;
- guarantee the rights of minorities;
- fight against the trafficking of natural riches from the continent, notably in mining;
- strengthen the existing framework of agreements and the mechanisms for prevention and management of conflicts. At this level, it is necessary to take initiatives as much in African states, as at the European state level and the rest of the world.
2. With regard to the second theme relating to poverty:
The fight against poverty is without doubt the major challenge facing Africa. This situation is explained internally not only by bad governance, but also by the weakness of the economies' integration and rapidly increasing populations. As for external causes, they are essentially made up of unfair trade, the scale of debt, and neoliberal economic policies imposed from abroad. To this is added the absence of a global political will given that it is proven that humanity has at its disposal today sufficient technological, human and financial means to halve extreme poverty by 2015. In this situation all progressive forces must be urged to:
- encourage governments in developing countries to work to advance their interests within the framework of strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals;
- make international opinion aware of the need to respect the promises given relating to Public Aid for Development whose total for some forty years should be brought up to the level of 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world's richest nations;
- pursue the political struggle against attitudes to the detriment of international trade rules, and against the iniquity of the measures of the WTO with regard to poor countries;
- call for the setting up of a World Solidarity Fund, voted for by the General Assembly of the United Nations and supported by the SI Congress in Sao Paulo;
- advance the reform of the United Nations in order to allow Africa to better make its voice heard;
- reform the Bretton Woods institutions;
- continue the fight for total cancellation of the debt;
- ensure within the European Union that negotiated preferences are maintained in EU-ACP agreements;
- put into practice a system of global taxation whose revenue will be earmarked for development;
- put the debate on a new financial agenda for Africa at the top of global priorities.
3. With regard to the third theme relating to democratic governance:
Democracy in practice on the continent, despite some advances, is prey to numerous obstacles.
A - The continent's political development shows that the majority of African countries have:
- good Constitutions, but these are subject to manipulations and modifications principally with the aim of keeping power;
- a good legal framework to organise elections, but these are often rigged;
- a legal framework which enshrines the rule of law, but violations of human rights, repression and stifling the press, as well as harassing opponents, are common practices.
B - Among other obstacles which democracy in Africa is up against today, we can cite:
- bad governance and the lack of respect for the rules of democracy;
- censorship of the media.
C - The socialist and social democratic response to these problems consists in:
- safeguarding state institutions, mechanisms for public control over running the state, and the strict separation of powers;
- modernising the state, by endowing it with an efficient administration to manage development;
- fighting against corruption and patronage;
- developing a democratic culture and civic awareness among citizens and giving public life the dignity it requires;
- modernising institutions and legislation to ensure healthy management of economic policies;
- working towards a fairer and more humane global order as opposed to following neo-liberal theories;
- resolutely pursuing the fight against censorship and repression of the press;
- promoting free and transparent elections everywhere, with a guarantee of alternating political power;
- strengthening the capacity of political parties. To this end, the SI Africa Committee proposes the creation of a Willy Brandt Fund to support political parties, in line with national legislation, and asks the SI Secretariat to undertake arrangements to create this. It invites the relevant bodies of the United Nations to work on the theme of supporting political parties and foundations close to socialist parties in the North to develop active cooperation with the parties and foundations in the South.
4. Specific cases
The development of the political situation in Senegal is particularly worrying. Opposition political leaders and journalists are favourite targets of the Criminal Investigation Board (DIC) which in effect plays the role of a political police. The proliferation of intimidation, arrests of democrats, political leaders and journalists, demonstrates the authoritarian deviations of an increasingly arbitrary regime which the SI Africa Committee denounces and condemns.
The situation in Guinea is of great concern. The inability of the head of state to really exercise his powers and the rifts at the heart of the government, are precipitating the decline of the state. The SI Africa Committee welcomes the initiative led by the Active Forces of the Nation (Forces Vives de la Nation) which organised a meeting of national dialogue from 17 to 20 March 2006, which we supported, and which defined a plan for coming out of the current crisis, calling for the establishment of a Government of National Unity, a National Council of the Republic, a Constitutional Court, a State Council, a Supreme Court and an Independent National Electoral Commission with the responsibility for organising an electoral process which will prevent members of the government to stand as candidates in the presidential elections.
The SI Africa Committee remains extremely concerned by the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, where war has left tens of thousands of people dead. Today, the lives of millions more continue to be devastated by violence and poverty, with an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced people struggling to survive amidst extremely difficult conditions, nearly 200,000 of them as refugees in neighboring Chad. A primary task today is to stop violence in Darfur and the terrible loss of life, to ensure the security of those who have been so brutally displaced from their homes and to ensure stability and peace in this entire area of the continent. The Committee recognises the work of the African Union and the international community thus far, underlining the need to step up efforts to achieve an end to violence, the disarmament of all militias and irregular armed groups and the resettling back home in peace of all those forced to flee, and urges that efforts be redoubled to stop the horror that has gone on far too long.
This country has been torn apart for more than forty years by armed conflict and the absence of any real democracy. Today Idriss Deby, who took power by force in 1990, refuses all real political dialogue with the civil opposition and seeks to maintain his power by any means. The SI Africa Committee urges all political actors in Chad to engage in real national dialogue to define the methods of a transition which will allow the establishment of democratic norms and the rule of law, leading to real elections as soon as possible.
Following extensive debate on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire under the theme relating to conflicts, the members of the Africa Committee:
- considering the close link between democracy on the one hand and economic, social and cultural progress on the other;
- considering the encouraging developments in the social and political situation of Côte d’Ivoire;
- considering the constant commitment of President Laurent Gbagbo and his firm determination to restore peace and the territorial integrity of Côte d'Ivoire through dialogue and negotiation within the framework of different peace agreements;
- convinced that the re-establishment of peace and stability in Côte d'Ivoire necessarily entails the disarmament of all armed movements and groups, the re-establishment of the state in the whole of the national territory with a view to fair and transparent elections,
Commends President Laurent Gbagbo and the FPI and sends its encouragement for their efforts in favour of dialogue, peace and national reconciliation, and reaffirms its full support in the defence of democracy, the Republic's institutions and the territorial integrity of Côte d'Ivoire;
Urges Ivorian political actors to respect the signed commitments in the framework of different peace agreements and to put in place Resolution 1633 of the UN Security Council sincerely and responsibly, so as to carry out, without delays or preconditions, the process of disarmament, redeployment of administration and of voter identification;
Encourages and lends its support to the African mediation efforts and to the initiatives of the United Nations;
Invites the international community to give the means to put into practice Resolution 1633, bringing firm support to the process of disarmament and the preparation of free and transparent elections within the prescribed timeframe;
And agrees on the sending of a high-level mission of the Socialist International to contribute to finding a way out of this crisis and to the successful holding of democratic elections in the anticipated time limits.