Declaration on the conflicts in Africa

GENEVA COUNCIL - Making global markets work for all, 23-24 November 1998

Original: French

Africa's natural resources and great economic promise are precious assets in its determined efforts towards progress and development. But success in this endeavour requires an end to the instability which today threatens most of its regions as a result of the proliferation of tensions and conflicts. This situation is to a great extent due to causes clearly identifiable in many zones of conflict: the absence of democracy, challenges to constitutional order, electoral fraud and foreign influence dictated by political, economic or geo-strategic interests. It is often aggravated by the resurgence of ethnic rivalry and a return to the politics of national identity.

These evils not only tarnish the image of the continent, but also impede its economic growth and destroy the social fabric of the African countries.

An examination of a number of African conflicts reveals the importance to be accorded to the close relationship between peace, democracy and development. At the same time it gives a clearer picture of their negative consequences and allows solutions to be sought.



A. The Great Lakes Region

Rich in water, and blessed with substantial mineral and energy resources, the Great Lakes Region is of great economic and strategic interest.

It has thus for some time been suffering serious disturbances and an unprecedented instability.


1. The situation in Burundi

Despite all the efforts made, in particular by the International Mission of Protection and Observation for the Restoration of Confidence in Burundi, the situation in the country deteriorated rapidly in March 1995, which led the UN Security Council to adopt on 9 March 1995 a Declaration condemning the activities of those inside and outside the country attempting to obstruct the implementation of the points of agreement contained in the Governmental Convention.

The government of Major Buyoya, established by the coup d'état of 25 July 1996, is still the subject of an embargo by the surrounding countries. Political parties are still banned and violence still occurs among the population. Faced with this situation the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has attempted to restart the Arusha negotiations and has invited the Bujumbura authorities to become more actively involved in the process of national reconciliation by establishing an inclusive dialogue with all concerned.

On the basis of information about the progressive re-establishment of peace, security and stability provided by the Burundian representative at the last session of the OAU Council of Ministers, an OAU commission has visited the country to assess the situation. Advances are also being made in the peace process intended to bring about a comprehensive national reconciliation that would enable the lifting of the embargo. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the facilitator, is playing an important role in this peace process.


2. The situation in the Congo

The complexity of its origins, the scale of its repercussions and its human and economic costs make the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo one of the most serious that Africa has ever seen.

The current rebellion is strangely similar to the rebellion of the Banyamulenge Tutsis who were involved in the campaign of the former Zaire to help President Kabila. To grasp the issues at stake, it is necessary to recall the origins of the Banyamulenge.

They are Tutsis of Rwandan and Burundian origin who over many generations have settled in the border area between Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Rwanda and Burundi. This region of plateau and plain, watered by Lake Kivu, enjoys an agreeable climate and abundant rainfall and possesses lands well suited to agriculture and to the raising of cattle.

The Banyamulenge, who have farmed the Kivu lands and made this a prosperous region, intend to remain there.

Behind this geo-political issue one can also detect the struggles for influence and position in this key region of Africa.

At least nine countries are confronting each other in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo itself.

The international community has mobilised to deal with the crisis; the OAU, the USA and South Africa in particular.

Any solution must take account of certain principles:

- respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo;

- the strict application of the principles of democracy and legality;

- the involvement of all parties concerned and interested;

- respect for the frontiers inherited from the colonial era (uti possedetis juris), a fundamental principle of the OAU.

On this basis the UN Security Council must work for a comprehensive and lasting solution to the crisis.


B. The Horn of Africa

1. Somalia

Since the fall of Siad Barre in January 1991, the result of the alliance between the United Somali Congress (mostly Hawiye - a southern clan) and the Somaliland National Movement (made up of Issaks), Somalia has regularly suffered serious upheavals.

It is clear that peace will remain illusory in Somalia if in the search for a solution account is not taken of the principles established by the Heads of State and Government of the OAU.

In fact, at the first ordinary meeting of the Central Committee of the OAU Mechanism for the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflict on 6 and 7 December 1993, the OAU approach was redefined on the basis of four fundamental principles:

a) the Somali conflict must be considered as an internal Somali affair whose solution depends primarily on the Somalis themselves, with no exclusions;

b) the Addis Ababa Agreement provides a framework for the solution of the conflict acceptable to all sides;

c) peace will not be possible without the general, complete and simultaneous disarmament of all forces engaged in conflict;

d) any settlement of the conflict must take account of the strictly humanitarian aspects.

The above principles seem to have been accepted by the twelve Somali political currents who drew up a programme of action following a series of meetings held in Cairo between 1 and 7 March 1994.

While promoting reconciliation between the different political currents, the programme includes, amongst others, three important decisions:

- the establishment of a 'Provisional Council of Public Safety', made up of seventeen (17) members, to be chaired alternately by the presidents of the National Movement and of the National Somali Alliance;

- the formation of a balanced government;

- the drafting of a new constitution and the organisation of free and democratic elections within 2 years.

In the meantime, UNISOM II withdrew from Somalia on 2 March 1995.

In an exceptional display of solidarity, on 10 March 1995 the main political currents agreed an 11-point pact strengthening an agreement signed between General Adid and Alki Mahdi.

In practice, however, it is disappointing to observe that the leaders of the Somali political currents have not honoured the undertakings they have given on numerous occasions.


2. The Ethiopian-Eritrean Conflict

This conflict concerns the demarcation of the boundary at Bada Ali and Buric, and also in the Badme area. Badme was originally the name of a plain crossed by the frontier between the two countries.

Diplomatic initiatives by the OAU, the United States, Rwanda and Djibouti have not as yet led to a settlement of differences on the basic issues.

The meeting of OAU Heads of State in Burkina Faso on 8 and 9 November 1998 drew up a 4-point proposal for a settlement of the conflict.

The Eritreans' rejection of the point concerning the withdrawal of their troops has once again produced an impasse and the threat of a renewal of hostilities.


C. West Africa

1. Sierra Leone

The civil war which broke out in Sierra Leone following the overthrow on 25 May 1997 of its democratically elected President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, by a military junta led by Major Paul Koroma, led to long months of activity by the international community.

Here it is appropriate to congratulate the West African Economic Community on the important role it played in the settlement of the crisis in Sierra Leone.

Ousted from power, the junta has taken to the provinces, where it continues to foment instability, causing suffering and the displacement of thousands of civilians.

It is necessary, then, to support with determination the efforts of the ECOMOG to neutralise the rebels who are committing atrocities against the civilian population. It is also necessary to help in the consolidation of the rule of law in Sierra Leone, with an independent judicial system that respects human rights, to put an end to acts of vengeance and to promote a real policy of national reconciliation.


2. Guinea-Bissau

On 7 June 1998, elements of the Guinea-Bissau Army organised a mutiny from the BRA military base.

This mutiny was led by Brigadier-General Ansuman Mane, following his suspension as Chief of the General Staff.

In the very early hours of the rebellion, on the request of the Head of State of Guinea-Bissau, and under the provisions of the bilateral agreements between the two countries, Senegal sent troops into Guinea-Bissau to defend the constitutional order and to help ensure stability and security in the sub-region. The Republic of Guinea did the same.

Since the outbreak of the crisis, many attempts at mediation have been made.

In this context, it is appropriate to signal the active role played by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in coordination with the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. With the support of the international community, the joint action of these two organisations has led to the signature of a memorandum of agreement.

Following the outbreak of renewed hostilities, the ECOWAS succeeded on 1 November 1991 in persuading the parties to sign a peace agreement which took into account the regional character of the conflict.

The Abuja Agreement cleared the ground for a comprehensive and lasting settlement to the crisis in Guinea-Bissau and the re-establishment of stability and security in the region.

It is now necessary for the international community to act quickly to assist in the implementation in their entirety of the decisions arrived at, which is the only way to block attempts to call this important agreement into question.


D. Southern Africa

The Angolan conflict

After a long struggle and many attempts at a settlement to the crisis, the signature of the Lusaka Protocol marked a new and significant step towards a final and comprehensive settlement of the crisis.

Recent developments in Angola, the result of UNITA's refusal to honour its obligations under the Lusaka Protocol, in particular the complete and unconditional demobilisation of its troops, are causing concern to the UN, the Troika (Russia, the US and Portugal) and the other countries of the region.

The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo is having a negative effect on the geopolitics of the region, and thus on the Angolan conflict. This shows how important it is to grasp all the inter-related parameters of this conflict in order to find a comprehensive solution.

Be that as it may, the Lusaka Agreement offers an appropriate framework for the definitive settlement of the Angolan crisis, and thus deserves the support of the international community in general and of the UN in particular.



Africa's image in the media is marked by poverty and suffering, the consequence of civil war, genocide, famine, the displacement of populations, the flight of refugees and violations of human rights. In 1992, 2.5% of Africans were in exile as a result of political violence.

At the political level, conflicts lead to the breakdown of the democratic process, the disintegration of the rule of law, corruption, and the rise of intolerance.

The material and economic costs of violence include in particular the high costs of the military machine, losses in terms of tourism and the destruction of economic infrastructure.

At the ecological level, deforestation, the destruction of fauna and the presence of anti-personnel mines are wreaking untold havoc.

And finally, conflict engenders a culture of violence, the collapse of moral values, the disappearance of social norms, and a loss of humanity.



  • To establish sub-regional mechanism for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict: given that there is no crisis, however circumscribed, that can be truly described as merely local, it would be of great importance to establish mechanisms at the sub-regional level to provide early warning, to manage conflict, and to maintain peace, security and stability.
  • To promote a culture of peace: it is absolutely necessary not to lose sight of the importance of the culture of peace in the prevention of conflict. Such a culture must be promoted at school, in the family and in the media.
  • Encourage the establishment of neutral mechanisms for the organisation of free and open elections.
  • To encourage free democratic expression, based on respect for legality and the constitutional order.
  • Request that international sponsors stop providing aid to countries violating human rights and that they reject the establishment of the rule of law.
  • In this spirit, to search for just and lasting solutions to crises and conflicts. These solutions must respect the will of the majority and the interests of minorities.
  • To promote African economic integration, which will lessen the importance of the rigid frontiers inherited from the colonial era and foster understanding between the peoples.
  • To struggle energetically, and in concert, against the sale and distribution of hand-guns and light weapons.
  • To encourage a greater involvement of civil society, and of women in particular, in the management and resolution of conflicts.
  • To strengthen partnership with the developed countries in the search for solutions to crises and conflicts in Africa.
  • A more active role for the Socialist International: given the recurrence and gravity of conflicts in Africa, it is desirable that the SI establish a Committee to aid in their settlement. It would also be appropriate for the SI to offer teams to mediate in zones of conflict.
  • To maintain a proper sense of the relationship between poverty, bad government and abuse of human rights, on the one hand, and violent conflict on the other. This is why, in order to reduce the threats to international security, we should not only pay more attention to the deeper causes of violence but also intensify cooperation between different sectors of the international community. Such cooperation is not only of value to countries in the throes of conflict, but also to humanity as a whole. Democratic socialism, embodying as it does the essential values of freedom, generosity and solidarity, has a fundamental role to play in this noble struggle.