Africa: Annan Conflict Report, 4/23/98

Africa: Annan Conflict Report, 4/23/98

Africa: Annan Conflict Report
Date distributed (ymd): 980423
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a press release summarizing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on conflict in Africa, and excerpts from his remarks on presenting the report to the UN Security Council. The full report can be found at

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15 April 1998

Press Release SG/2045 SC/6501


Note: For further information, contact: Editor, Africa Recovery, Department of Public Information, New York, Tel: 212-963-6856; Fax: 212-963-1334; e-mail: email:

NEW YORK, 16 April (Africa Recovery Section, DPI) -- In perhaps his most important political report to date, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has analysed in remarkably candid terms the causes of conflict in Africa. In the report, Mr. Annan also proposes a comprehensive set of far-reaching, "realistic and achievable" measures designed to significantly reduce political tensions and violence within and between Africans States.

The report, which the Security Council had requested and will take up for in-depth deliberation at possibly ministerial level on 24 April, comes against a backdrop of significant political and economic achievements on the continent, and the emergence of leaders with confidence in Africa's ability to chart a path to peace and higher levels of development. These recent successes have sparked renewed international interest in Africa, and as such, the report has the potential to secure wide African and international support at a time when, the Secretary-General observes, efforts to break with past patterns "are at last beginning to succeed".

The Secretary-General's recommendations derive strength in significant part from the candour with which his report analyses causes -- and responsibility -- for conflict in Africa.

"By not averting these colossal human tragedies [as in Rwanda, Somalia and Liberia]", says the Secretary-General, "African leaders have failed the peoples of Africa; the international community has failed them; the United Nations has failed them". Repeatedly, the Secretary-General calls on all concerned to "summon the political will" to produce positive change in Africa.

"The United Nations stands ready to play its part", Mr. Annan declares. "So must the world. So must Africa."

Africa today must more than ever look at itself, the Secretary-General asserts, given the renewed momentum in the continent's quest for peace and greater prosperity. However, he adds, African efforts need stronger international support politically, as well as in the economic area, where greater debt relief and market access for more diversified African exports are crucial to ensuring the higher living standards that promote stability.

In what is one of the most concise and authoritative primers on the causes and cures for African conflict, the report notes that 14 of the continent's 53 countries were afflicted by armed conflict in 1996 alone, and over 30 wars have occurred in Africa since 1970, mostly within States. These accounted for "more than half of all war-related deaths worldwide" and caused over 8 million people to become refugees, returnees and displaced persons.

While no transgressors are named, the report goes on to say that even in this post-cold-war period, foreign interests continue to play a large role in sustaining some conflicts in the competition for oil and other African resources.

African States are not spared either: even as he pays them tribute for their growing peacekeeping and mediation efforts, the Secretary-General points out that the role some of them play "in supporting and sometimes even in instigating conflicts in neighbouring countries must be candidly acknowledged".

In focusing on the various actors who help to fan conflict, Mr. Annan strongly criticizes international arms merchants as being among those "who profit from conflict in Africa". He recommends that Member States pass legislation making the violation of Security Council arms embargoes by individuals or corporations a criminal offence under their national laws. Although public identification of arms merchants has been difficult, the Secretary-General asserts that possibly no other single initiative would do more to help combat the flow of illicit arms to Africa. The report asks the Security Council to address this issue as a matter of urgency, including how the United Nations might support the compiling, tracking and publicizing of such information.

At the same time, while recognizing the rights of States to provide for their own defence, the Secretary-General calls upon African States to reduce their purchases of arms and munitions to below 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and to commit themselves to a zero-growth policy for defence budgets for a period of 10 years.

He notes the "long-term distortions" in Africa's political economy and the authoritarian legacies of colonialism which helped produce the "winner-takes-all" and highly personalized forms of governance seen in parts of the continent. With the frequent lack of peaceful means to change or replace leadership and the "often violent politicization of ethnicity", Mr. Annan says conflict becomes virtually inevitable.

Turning to the United Nations itself, Mr. Annan calls for a reversal of the international community's "great reluctance in recent years to assume the political and financial exposure associated with deploying peacekeeping operations". Memories of the Somalia experience "continue to hobble" the Organization's capacity to respond swiftly and decisively to crises; and within Africa, the lack of forceful United Nations action to stop the genocide has had a "particularly harsh" impact, leading to the tendency of some African governments to marginalize the United Nations from political involvement in regional affairs. The "horrifying suffering of the Rwandan people sends the clear and unmistakable message that the international community must never again tolerate such inaction", the Secretary-General asserts.

The Secretary-General urges Member States to provide renewed and better coordinated support for early and decisive action to prevent or resolve conflict in Africa. He says United Nations peacekeeping could achieve much if "deployed with a credible deterrent capacity, equipped with appropriate resources and backed by sufficient political will". Mr. Annan calls for support for regional and subregional initiatives, and strongly encourages Member States to contribute to the United Nations and Organization of African Unity (OAU) Trust Funds for conflict prevention and peacekeeping. "Such support is necessary because the United Nations lacks the capacity, resources and expertise to address all problems that may arise in Africa", he says. "It is also desirable because wherever possible the international community should strive to complement rather than supplant African efforts to resolve Africa's problems."

He says Africa must demonstrate the political will to rely upon political rather than military responses to problems, protect democratic channels for pursuing legitimate interests and expressing dissent, and respect and legitimize political opposition. Africa must also take good governance seriously, ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization and promoting transparent and accountable public administration. "Unless good governance is prized, Africa will not break free of the threat and the reality of conflict which are so evident today."

Mr. Annan urges governments in conflict situations to consider appointing special mediators or special commissions to build confidence and recommend practical solutions. He also calls for the establishment of "contact groups" of interested countries or a "special conference" in conflict and post-conflict situations, as done in the case of Liberia. Sanctions should also be better targeted, since "in some cases, the hardship imposed on the civilian population is greatly disproportionate to the likely impact of the sanctions on the behaviour of the protagonists". Mr. Annan suggested the use of sanctions aimed at decision makers and their families, including the freezing of personal and organizational assets, as well as restrictions on travel.

Turning to the international community, Mr. Annan said development aid should be "restructured, focusing on high-impact areas and on reducing dependency". He notes that after more than 40 years of technical assistance programmes, 90 per cent of the $12 billion a year of technical assistance is spent on non-African consultants, despite the availability of African experts in many fields. In this light, Mr. Annan urges donors to make sure that "at least 50 per cent of their aid to Africa is spent in Africa".

Mr. Annan calls for "new sources of funding", as well as "better use of existing resources and the enactment of trade and debt measures that will enable Africa to generate and better reinvest its own resources". He says the next meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries should consider eliminating trade barriers to African products. He also calls for deeper reduction of Africa's "unsustainable" external debt -- $328.9 billion in 1995 -- which would promote and reinforce economic reforms. Such relief should be structured "in ways that will not undermine Africa's future capacity to attract investment, but will instead enhance that capacity by lifting past burdens from present operations", the Secretary-General adds.

Regional and subregional integration processes should be strengthened, the Secretary-General says, calling on the United Nations system (including the Bretton Woods institutions), along with intergovernmental organizations such as the European Union, to reinforce African countries' own efforts. He also calls for "a hard look" at the important international initiatives aimed at promoting peace and development in Africa. These include the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s and its implementing component, the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, and Commitment 7 of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, concerning economic, social and human resource development of Africa and the least developed countries.

Key Recommendations

The Secretary-General's key recommendations include the following:

On arms and arms trafficking:

-- United Nations Member States should pass laws enabling prosecution in national courts of violations of Security Council arms embargoes.

-- The Security Council should urgently consider how the United Nations might help compile, track and publicize information on arms trafficking.

-- African governments should reduce purchases of arms and munitions to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and maintain zero-growth on defence budgets for the next decade.

On sanctions:

-- Economic sanctions are too often a blunt instrument, and should be better targeted, for example, by freezing the assets of decision makers, their organizations and their families and through restrictions on travel.

-- Combatants should be held financially liable to their victims under international law, where civilians have been deliberately targeted; international legal machinery should be developed to help find and seize the assets of the transgressors.

On refugees:

-- An international mechanism should be established to help host governments maintain the security and neutrality of refugee camps. Such camps should be located away from borders; combatants should be separated from genuine refugees.

On structural adjustment:

-- The Bretton Woods institutions should consider providing "peace-friendly" structural adjustment programmes.

-- Conditionalities must not be antithetical to a peace process; donors should not cut off funds from a weak government making good-faith, popularly supported efforts to implement peace agreements.

On development assistance:

-- Aid should be restructured to focus on high-impact areas (rural water supply, basic education, primary health) and to reduce dependency.

-- Donors should strive to ensure that at least 50 per cent of their aid to Africa is spent in Africa.

-- New sources of funding are required from donor countries.

On debt and trade:

-- The scope of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund should be greatly expanded, since only four African countries have so far met its conditions.

-- All creditors should convert into grants all remaining official bilateral debt of the poorest African countries.

-- Creditors should consider clearing the entire debt stock of the poorest African countries, as requested by the OAU.

-- The next summit of the Group of 8 industrialized countries should consider eliminating trade barriers to African products.

On the Security Council

-- The Security Council should meet every two years at ministerial level to assess efforts undertaken and actions needed to support peace and development in Africa.

-- The Council should consider convening, within five years, a summit-level session for the same purpose.

On international business practices:

-- Countries implementing the Convention Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions should set a timetable for early enactment of national legislation.

-- The OAU should draw up by the year 2000 an African convention on the conduct of public officials and the transparency of public administration.


16 April 1998

Press Release SG/SM/6524 SC/6503


Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement delivered this morning at the Security Council (excerpts only)


The report that I present today is guided, above all, by a commitment to honesty and clarity in analysing and addressing the challenge of conflict in Africa. For too long, conflict in Africa has been seen as inevitable or intractable, or both. It is neither.

Conflict in Africa, as everywhere, is caused by human action, and can be ended by human action. This is the reality that shames us for every conflict that we allow to persist, and emboldens us to believe that we can address and resolve every conflict that we choose to confront. ...

No one -- not the United Nations, not the international community, not Africa's leaders -- can escape responsibility for the persistence of these conflicts.

Indeed, colossal human tragedies have taken place in Africa over the last decade -- tragedies that could and should have been prevented. Not enough was done to address the causes of conflict. Not enough was done to ensure a lasting peace. Not enough was done to create the conditions for sustainable development. ...

Today in many parts of Africa, efforts to break with these past patterns are at last beginning to succeed. It is my aspiration that this report add momentum to Africa's renewed quest for peace and greater prosperity.

The report strives to do so by offering an analysis of Africa's conflicts that does justice to their reality and seeks answers in their sources. It strives to do so by proposing realistic and achievable recommendations which, over time, may reduce if not entirely end Africa's conflicts. And it aims to summon the political will of Africans and non- Africans alike to act when action so evidently is needed -- the will without which no level of assistance and no degree of hope can make the difference between war and peace in Africa.

The sources of conflict in Africa are as varied and complex as the continent itself. In this report, I have sought to identify the kinds of actions that most effectively and most lastingly may address those conflicts and resolve them.

The significance of history and of factors external to Africa cannot be denied. But more than three decades after African countries gained their independence, there is a growing recognition among Africans that the continent must look beyond its colonial past for the sources and the solutions to its current conflicts.

The proposals that I set forth today require, in some cases, new ways of thinking about conflict in Africa. In others, they require new ways of acting. Whether in peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance or post-conflict peace-building, genuine and sustainable progress depends on three critical factors: a clear understanding of the challenge; the political will to respond to that challenge; and the resources necessary to provide the adequate response.

Equally important is the understanding that peace and development remain inextricably linked -- one feeding on the other, enabling the other and securing the other. The renunciation of violence as a means of gaining and holding power is only the beginning. Then must follow a renewed commitment to national development founded on sober, sound and uncorrupted economic policies. ...

Good governance is now more than ever the condition for the success of both peace and development. It is no coincidence that Africa's renaissance has come at a time when new and more democratic forms of government have begun to emerge and take root. ...

Africa is an ancient continent. Its lands are rich and fertile enough to provide a solid foundation for prosperity. Its people are proud and industrious enough to seize the opportunities that may be presented. I am confident that Africans will not be found wanting -- in stamina, in determination or in political will.

Africa today is striving to make positive change, and in many places these efforts are beginning to bear fruit. In the carnage and tragedy that afflicts some parts of Africa, we must not forget the bright spots or overlook the achievements that have been made. What is needed is for those achievements to grow and multiply throughout Africa.

Three areas deserve particular attention. First, Africa must demonstrate the political will to rely upon political rather than military responses to problems. Democratic channels for pursuing legitimate interests and expressing dissent must be protected, and political opposition respected and accommodated in constitutional forms.

Second, Africa must summon the political will to take good governance seriously -- ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization and promoting transparency and capability in public administration. ...

Third, Africa must enact and adhere to the various reforms needed to promote economic growth. ...

Political will is also needed from the international community. Where the international community is committed to making a difference, it has proven that significant and rapid transformation can be achieved. With respect to Africa, the international community must now summon the will to intervene where it can have an impact, and invest where resources are needed.

New sources of funding are required, but so too is a better use of existing resources and the enactment of trade and debt relief measures that will enable Africa to generate and better reinvest its own resources. Concrete steps must be taken and I have made a number of concrete recommendations towards this end.

Let us never forget that it is the persistence of poverty that is impeding the full promise of peace for all of Africa's peoples. Alleviating poverty must be the first aim of all our efforts. Only then -- only when prosperity and opportunity become real -- will every citizen, young or old, man or woman, have a genuine and lasting stake in a peaceful future for Africa -- politically, economically and socially. ...

The time is long past when one could claim ignorance about what was happening in Africa, or what was needed to achieve progress. The time is also past when the responsibility for producing change could be shifted on to other shoulders. It is responsibility that we all must face. ...


Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 22:21:38 -0500 Subject: Africa: Annan Conflict Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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