Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UN Security Council debate “Mercenary activities as a source of insecurity and destabilization in Africa”
Welcome to New York. We are glad to see you in the Chair of UN Security Council. This is the first session under the presidency of Equatorial Guinea this month and we appreciate that you attend it personally thus setting the tone for the entire presidency of Equatorial Guinea in February. We will be supporting our friends from Equatorial Guinea.
We are grateful to the UN Secretary-General and to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for the briefings. We also appreciate that ministers of foreign affairs of African states have arrived to visit this debate.
We would like to thank Equatorial Guinea for organizing and holding today’s debate. It is no secret that ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ – despite being criminally prosecuted in many countries including Russia – still are unpleasant reality of present day armed conflicts. In this regard the topic of mercenarism in Africa that will be discussed today is more urgent that ever.
We would like to pay attention to the fact that mercenaries are often used when it comes to interfering in internal affairs of sovereign States. In 1981 UN GA adopted Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States that prohibits training, financing and recruitment of mercenaries or the sending of such mercenaries into the territory of another state. The same Declaration says that states must not commit any actions that seek to disrupt unity or to undermine or subvert the political order of other states. Thus any non-constitutional shift of power or violent change of governance with foreign assistance is unacceptable. However mercenaries are often recruited and paid for to perform tasks like this.
It is on the African continent where foreign mercenary legions have played a particularly deplorable role. The conscience of a number of Western countries will remain stained by recruiting mercenaries to combat national liberation movements in Africa and to prevent the nations under colonial oppression from using their self-determination right.
Even after becoming independent the young African states had to deal with coup d’état attempts by colonial powers. They acted through ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ who are frequently reported for atrocities, tortures and executions of civilians.
The former colonial powers were guided by selfish economic goals or by the desire to prevent establishment of an independent government with diverse ideology and they consciously violated the principles of international law that condemn colonialism, racism and foreign rule.
Security Council has considered the issue of mercenary activities in one African country or another on several occasions and has consistently pointed at inadmissibility of employing foreign fighters for the purpose of destabilizing, disrupting territorial integrity and sovereignty of a state. The unseemly mercenary activity is also used in what is considered one of the key sources of problems for Africa – in competing for the abundant resources of African countries.
We are aware that Equatorial Guinea has recently encountered such challenges and managed to overcome them. We share your concerns in this regard and we strongly condemn any forms of interfering in internal affairs of sovereign states.
Numerous conflicts on the African continent, including those provoked by external influence, often serve as breeding ground for various criminal activities. Here is a living example of this: crisis to follow the regime change operation in Libya that struck a devastating blow against the entire regional security system and led to a large-scale penetration of weapons and criminals to Sahel countries.
We call upon everyone who is developing similar plans today to think about what this short-sighted policy brought about in Libya. Do not repeat it in other regions.
The problems in Central and West Africa exacerbate, because in a number of countries there are intense activities of illegal armed groups, terrorist and extremist organizations whose members fight not only for their perverse political or ideological beliefs, but for money as well.
We are particularly concerned about the situation in Mali, Lake Chad Basin, Great Lakes region. These challenges can be effectively addressed if there is vigorous action taken by national and regional armed forces and also if foreign financial flows that nourish mercenary and extremist activities are cut off.
We believe that eradication of these phenomena takes sustainable conflict settlement, strengthening of state institutions, first of all reinforcement of security sector and steps on social and economic development. There is often a need for support from international community, however this sort of assistance should be provided only upon request of countries concerned. Colonial approaches should become a thing of the past, as well as blackmail, threats and provocations elevated to a level of state policy that go as far as illegitimate use of force against sovereign states.
We would like to point out that threats and challenges that Central Africa faces today, including mercenarism, are closely interwoven and interconnected, whereas African states are very interdependent.
To destabilize situation in one country means to stir up the entire sub-region and crush the security of neighboring states. That is why it is vital to keep track of this and hold a hand on pulse of new developments.
We support the search for African solutions to African problems, including the problem of mercenarism. We believe updating the 1977 Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa of the Organization of African Unity (predecessor to the African Union) could give an impetus to this process. We think this document laid down the fundamental basis for collective effort to prosecute and eradicate this illegal activity on the continent.