Representatives of close to 30 parties and organisations from Angola, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Palestine, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia took part in the meeting of the Socialist International Africa Committee held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on 14-15 June 2008 to discuss some of the pressing issues facing the continent of Africa today in advance of the SI’s forthcoming XXIII Congress, focusing principally on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the strengthening of democracy to eradicate national conflicts, the impact of the food crisis on Africa, and the challenge of peace and security in the continent.
The meeting opened with a special inaugural session held at the country’s National Assembly with the participation of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo. The session was addressed as well by Pascal Affi N’Guessan, President of the SI-member Ivorian Popular Front, FPI, Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International, and Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Leader of the PS, Senegal, and Chair of the SI Africa Committee. FPI President, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, highlighted the advances in the country, including the free circulation of people, preparation of the elections and a more harmonious climate in the government thanks to the agreement signed last year in Ouagadougou. Luis Ayala recalled the longstanding engagement of the International with its Ivorian members to advance democracy and political freedoms in their country. He expressed recognition of the work led by President Gbagbo to overcome the crisis in the country and looked forward to the successful holding of elections in the autumn. Ousmane Tanor Dieng paid homage to the President’s past struggles and his courage in the face of adversity, praising his political action, and welcoming the recent positive developments in the peace process. President Gbagbo expressed his joy at being once again amongst his friends and comrades of the Socialist International. He reiterated his faith in democracy as the only road to power and his conviction that Côte d’Ivoire was advancing on the path to peace.
In its first working session, the Committee discussed ‘The situation in Côte d’Ivoire and the process of peace and stability in the country’. Participants were unanimous in welcoming the notable advances in the peace process since the signing of the Political Accord of Ouagadougou in April 2007 and in congratulating the President and the Prime Minister for following the path of dialogue. The meeting heard of the numerous problems affecting the population in the North of the country, particularly in the economic and social sphere, the vulnerable situation of women and the setbacks in education and health. While all these were destabilising factors, participants also stressed the dangers of incomplete disarmament and the importance of international solidarity and the involvement of international institutions in accompanying the peace process. They called on the Independent Electoral Commission and other bodies involved to act impartially to guarantee free and fair elections on 30 November 2008, and pledged their support for this process, agreeing to send a delegation to observe the forthcoming elections. A resolution on Côte d’Ivoire was adopted.
In the discussions on ‘The strengthening of democracy in Africa to eradicate national conflicts’, the need for democracy was underlined as paramount to peace, stability and social progress, and its reinforcement a vital necessity. In this context, it was also stressed that fundamental to a strong democracy was the adherence to the rule of law, good governance which takes into account all citizens, the elimination of corruption, the development of real strategies to reduce poverty and misery - all of which undermine democracy - as well as the need to promote a democratic culture through adequate education.
‘The food crisis and its impact on Africa’, the third theme of discussion, was linked to the previous themes discussed, in the sense that it undermined democracy and led to conflict. Participants agreed that the causes of the crisis could be found in neoliberal policies, the role of some international institutions, the dependence of economies on overpriced energy, the agrofuels production, the increase in the demand from countries with emerging economies, armed conflicts, among others. International solidarity was urgently needed along with an emergency international aid plan. It was underlined that the need to feed all peoples was an imperative which none of us could escape from as it was the very essence of humanity and the SI was committed to the struggle against a world order based on egoism and to the search for lasting solutions.
In the discussions on the fourth theme, ‘The challenge of peace and security in the continent’, several situations of conflict in Africa were reviewed from a national, regional and global perspective. Solutions put forward included the strengthening of the capability of the African Union to resolve crises, making the United Nation’s intervention system more democratic, and the fight against impunity. The representation of women at all levels of decision making in the prevention of conflicts was underlined, as was the need to accord particular protection to women and children as well as to people fleeing from conflict, and to put an end to the impunity of sexually motivated crimes.
The Committee also expressed its grave concern over the danger of civil war in Zimbabwe, the post-electoral situation in Equatorial Guinea, and the instability in Guinea Conakry, calling on the governments of these three countries to observe the rules of equity and transparency for the sake of civil peace and democracy.
A Declaration of Abidjan was adopted at the end of the meeting, summarising the conclusions of the debates.