Welcome Remarks of the African Union Commission Chairperson, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to the Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government
Addis Ababa, 12 October 2013
Your Excellency Ato Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the African Union
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government
Excellency Deputy Chairperson Mwencha and fellow Commissioners
Honourable Ministers and Members of the Executive Council
Honourable Heads of Delegations and Representatives of the RECs and the UNECA
Your Excellencies, Members of the Permanent Representative Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to warmly welcome you back to Addis Ababa and to thank you for your positive response to our invitation to take part in this Extraordinary Summit.
The holding of this Extraordinary session is a testimony to the importance of the matter that the Assembly has been seized with for a long time.
The Assembly is also seized with the task of electing a new Commissioner for Peace and Security, following the appointment of HE Ambassador Lamamra to the position of Foreign Minister of Algeria. On behalf of the Commission, we thank him for the tireless work in pursuit of our collective peace and security, in the true spirit of Pan Africanism.
The Extraordinary Summit also takes place as we bow our heads in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Kenya and Nigeria last month, and of the Africans who perished off the coast of the Lampedusa Island when their boat sank on the 3rd of October.
When the Assembly adopted the Constitutive Act in 2002, it was mindful of the fact that the scourge of conflicts constitutes a major impediment to the socio-economic development of the continent.
As we therefore transformed from the OAU to the African Union, we moved from a policy of non-interference to the policy of non-indifference; the unequivocal rejection of impunity; and the promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.
It was these principles that saw many Member States initiating reviews of their Constitutions to align it with the relevant provisions of the AU Constitutive Act. In addition, the majority of AU Member States, thirty four (34) in total, are parties to the Rome Statutes, a clear testimony to the commitment of Africa to an international justice system set up to combat impunity and to seek redress for victims of human rights abuses.
The African Union remains of the view that the promotion of international justice, the rejection of impunity and the fight against violations of human rights must go hand in hand with the promotion of peace, security, democracy, reconciliation, inclusion and stability.
As we therefore reflect on our long and arduous struggle for a peaceful Africa, as we continue to seek African solutions to African problems, we are reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela, when he said
“..solutions can be found even to conflicts that have come to seem intractable and that such solutions emerge when those who have been divided reach out to find the common ground.”
The violence that erupted in Kenya after the elections in 2007 deeply saddened our continent.
In the spirit and letter of non-indifference, the African Union intervened through the Eminent Persons panel to assist Kenya to bring together all stakeholders to find common ground, and to set it on the path where the people of Kenya could begin to address the underlying causes of these tragic events.
Following the National Accord that resulted from Kenya’s National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process, the country made progress in transforming its police and judiciary, promoting peaceful resolution of conflicts amongst local communities, and introduced a new Constitution that allows greater inclusion in the context of Kenya’s diversity. Both President Kenyatta and Vice President Ruto, along with the leadership from all sectors of Kenyan society, played a critical role in bringing together contending groups to find common ground.
In addition, based on the reports presented to the 15th Extraordinary Executive Council by the Kenyan delegation, work is ongoing on investigations and prosecutions of the 2007/2008 post-elections violence and on resettlement of the thousands of Kenyans displaced by the violence.
The peaceful elections that Kenya held in March 2013, with high participation of the populace and the commitment by all parties to resolve disputes through the legal system, is testimony that the country has indeed come a long way since the tragic events of 2007/2008.
There is no question that much more needs to be done to consolidate reconciliation, inclusion, human rights and social justice in Kenya, but we are of the view that the country is on the right track.
The security situation in Kenya remains fragile, as seen in some parts where instability is of ongoing concern, and as experienced with the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi.
We should therefore not allow Kenya to slide back for any reason and the AU is keen to see stability and an improved security situation in Kenya.
This requires the undivided attention of its leadership, to consolidate and create conditions for lasting peace, security and reconciliation. Given the challenges remaining in the country outlined above and the security threats it continues to face, the elected leadership of Kenya must be allowed to serve their term as mandated by the people of the country.
They must be allowed to lead the country in the consolidation of peace, reconciliation, reconstruction, democracy and development as per the will of the Kenyan people, expressed in elections in March this year.
As a Member State, Kenya plays an important role in the promotion of peace and security on the continent in general, and in the Horn of Africa in particular.
Our continent and the African Union remain committed to the system of international justice and action against impunity. African states played an important role in the adoption of the Rome Statutes and the establishment of the ICC, in recognition of the importance of transitional justice in the promotion of peace and security.
Kenya, as a State Party to the Rome Statutes, throughout this difficult period has also in word and deed expressed its willingness to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), even after the elections of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto to office.
This is despite national and international customary laws, including in many Western countries, which guarantee sitting Heads of State and Government immunity from prosecution during their tenure of office, more especially when they are democratically elected.
Excellencies, communication between the ICC and the AU has been ongoing. Since the May Summit, we send two letters co-signed by the Chairpersons of the AU and the AU Commission to the ICC, an AU delegation led by the Chairperson of the Executive Council met the President and Prosecutor of the Court in The Hague and the Chairperson of the Commission met the ICC Prosecutor earlier this week.
We would therefore like the United Nations Security Council and the ICC to work with us to ensure that the process of stability, reconciliation, security and peace in Kenya is consolidated.
The UN Security Council and the ICC should work with us to enable the elected leadership of Kenya to fulfill their constitutional obligations, by urgently considering deferment of the ICC proceedings against the President and Vice President of Kenya, in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statutes.
This will also allow the leadership of Kenya to ensure that the country does not slide back into violence and instability.
In our view, this will further give the State Parties time and space to place matters that are of concern to Africa on the agenda of the coming Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statutes, and to discuss the approach and role of the ICC dispassionately and calmly.
It is critical that we remain within the legal framework of the Rome Statutes.
The Assembly decision in May this year also undertook to “seek ways of strengthening African mechanisms to deal with African challenges and problems.” Although more needs to be done, we are recording progress in implementing the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture, at national and continental levels.
We should however do more to strengthen the integrity and capacity of our national and continental Judicial system, including the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, so that the ICC indeed becomes the court of last instance, as intended in the Rome Statutes and in pursuit of African people’s demand for justice, reconciliation and respect of their human rights and dignity.
Finally, as we mourn the senseless deaths of Africans who perished off the coast of the Lampedusa Island, and countless other similar deaths, we must scale up our investment in Africa’s young men and women, so that they do not have to face such perilous journeys, leaving our shores in search of illusive green pastures.
In this, the year of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU and African Union, we must accelerate Africa’s renaissance by speeding up infrastructure and agricultural development; deepen industrialization and integration; and by investing in the health, education and skilling of our people, especially youth and women.
I wish you fruitful deliberations and outcomes.