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Masisi on peace and security in Africa

SHARE   |   Thursday, 26 July 2018   |   By Ricardo Kanono
President, Mokgweetsi Masisi President, Mokgweetsi Masisi

I hope that during your stay here you will spare some time to explore the city and to sample the renowned Setswana hospitality. My Government appreciates the unique opportunity of co-hosting this workshop, which will reflect on some of the pertinent issues coming out of the 7th Tana High-Level Forum on security in Africa. This is because, in Botswana, we strongly believe in the ideals of finding African solutions to African problems, in all areas of human development, particularly with regard to issues of peace and security.

In this regard, I had the opportunity to participate in three (3) Tana Forums, the last one being the 6th Tana Forum in April 2017, when I was still the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana. Unfortunately, I could not attend the 7th Tana High Level Forum due to other prior work commitments.

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However, I am informed that you had successful and thought provoking deliberations, under the theme “Ownership of Africa’s Security Provision: Financing and reforming the African Union”, which prompted the convening of this joint multi-stakeholder forum. I believe this is the platform for further interrogating issues that impede full ownership of the peace and security process in Africa, a situation which is not only unfortunate but also untenable.

I must say that this workshop is timely, coming immediately after the just ended 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, which considered the state of peace and security on the continent; progress on the implementation of the African Union Master Roadmap on practical steps to Silencing the Guns in Africa by the year 2020; as well as, the Summit theme of the year 2018. The theme, as you will recall, focused on the scourge of corruption on the continent and its related consequences on peace, stability and socio-economic development.

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As you are all aware, as African Leaders, at the various African Union Summits and other multilateral fora, we continue to expound a wide-range of peace and security initiatives aimed at preventing, managing and resolving conflicts and crisis situations on the continent. However, violence and conflicts on the continent remain unabated, inhibiting social and political progress and limiting the much needed economic growth.

It is of grave concern to all of us that protracted violent conflicts such as those in the Great Lakes Region; terrorism and extremism in the Sahel region and the Lake Chad area, still threaten peace, security, stability and the socio-economic development in the affected regions and the continent as a whole.

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It is common knowledge that most of the conflicts in Africa remain etched in the competition for resources and access to state power. In addition, the lack of equality of the human race before our States’ machineries and the lack of due regard for the basic human rights of our people, also continue to ferment tensions that outlive generations, resulting in protracted conflicts, fighting and bloodshed.

We all know that, the African Union, has established the Peace and Security Architecture which entails the Peace and Security Council, the Continental Early Warning Systems, the Panel of the Wise, the African Standby Force and a Peace Fund to finance our peace and security initiatives and efforts.

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However, I must hasten to say that having all these seemingly good initiatives has proved to be not enough a panacea to peace and security problems that we are facing. To this end, we are still going to need platforms like the Tana Forum as we continue our search for a collective response to minimizing protracted conflicts in Africa.

I have noted with keen interest the pertinent question this workshop is asking, that is, who should own the peace process, the peace-making initiative, and the post-conflict environment?

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To answer this question, let me share our experience as Botswana, because more often than not, we get the question as to how we have managed to remain peaceful despite the fact that our country is endowed with natural resources, which are the main source of protracted civil wars in many countries.

I am happy to inform you that, the long-standing peace, democracy and good governance that Botswana is always lauded for precedes the modern democratic discourse and peace processes. Batswana, in their respective communities, have always had a Kgotla system, through which public opinion, consultation, public decisions and arbitration gained expression.

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The Kgotla system has maintained social cohesion and identity in various communities and promotes freedom of expression and equality before the law. We have managed to infuse the Kgotla system into the modern day democratic process so that it continues to play its role at community and the national levels. The Kgotla system is therefore the foundation of our democratic institutions.

Another key ingredient of our success story has been good leadership. Our founding fathers and their successors were visionary leaders that set this country on a firm path of democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, equality, sound macroeconomic management and socio-economic development.

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Furthermore, since gaining Independence in 1966, we have also remained a non-racial multi-party democracy, which operates within the framework of a democratic Constitution. In this respect, we have since held eleven multi-party elections; and we will be going to our twelfth next year.

In addition, we have progressively introduced changes to our constitution and electoral processes to suit the mood of our people and to improve on our multi-party democracy. Some of the changes include a two-term Presidential term limit and extending the universal suffrage to 18 year olds.

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These changes were made through dialogue that includes engagement with Batswana through Kgotla meetings and engagement among different political parties. We have a forum called an All Party Conference, where the ruling party, opposition political parties engage each other on issues of national interest. The All Party Conference allows all political players, even those who are not represented in Parliament, to have a say on key national issues.

As I mentioned earlier, competition for the control of natural resources remains one of the major root causes of conflicts in Africa. However, in Botswana, we have been able to escape the pitfalls of the resource curse and managed to ensure that the exploitation of our natural resources result in socio-economic growth and the development for our people.

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Two important issues arise from the way we have linked exploitation of natural resources with economic development:

i) Natural resources rights are vested in the State. In this way, we have promulgated laws, regulations and policies that ensure that all revenues from natural resources are used to develop the country for the benefit of all citizens.

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ii) We have an elaborate system of planning through National Development Plans (NDP). All major projects are included in the NDP, which runs for a period of six years. The NDP is developed through a bottom-up consultation process.

As a result of this approach, we are able to demonstrate that the proceeds from our natural resources are being used to develop physical and social infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools, water supplies and for the provision of health and free education amongst others.

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Our story in Botswana may not necessarily work for everyone, but I am certain that some elements of it may help others to improve their governance systems. We are therefore always willing and ready to share our success story.

On that note, let me conclude by taking this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to the Institute for Peace and Security Studies; the United States Institute of Peace; Institute for Security Studies; and most importantly, the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa for this great initiative, and for choosing Botswana to host this meeting.

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*Masisi was officially opening a meeting of the 7th Post-Tana Forum MULTI-STAKEHOLDER MEETING, on 18TH JULY 2018, whose objective was to brainstorm and come up with concrete policy initiatives and directions to address issues of peace and security in Africa.



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