Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC open debate "Peace and security in Africa: Capacity-building for sustaining peace"
We thank African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mr. Bankole Adeoye, Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ms. Cristina Duarte, as well as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Mr. Muhammad Abdul Muhith of Bangladesh for their substantive briefings. Special thanks to our Chinese colleagues for organizing a debate on this pressing (first of all for our African friends) issue.
There is little doubt that African states need international assistance in building their national capacities in order to address the continent’s problems, which are quite numerous. Among them continuing armed conflicts, growing terrorist threats, scarce capabilities of state institutions, poverty and epidemics. Sometimes, welfare of entire states and even regions was affected by foreign interventions, as was the case in Libya in 2011.
In spite of this, we cannot but praise Africa’s efforts in the area of sustainable development of its political and social systems, strengthening the institutions of the African Union and sub-regional organizations. Agenda 2063 for Africa’s development has been adopted, African Continental Free Trade Area has been launched, African Union’s flagship initiative on silencing the guns in Africa is underway, and a continent-wide peace and security architecture is being formed.
At the same time, African files still cover most of the Security Council agenda. On our part, we remain convinced that effective assistance to Africans can only base on a mutually respectful dialogue given full observance of sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of African states. In this chamber, we often hear words (some of them spoken in a rather patronizing manner) that African states need democratic transformations, timely elections, reforms and reinforcement of state institutions. In many cases this is truly so. However hence comes the question. To what extent should this be a Security Council’s concern and what can the Council do to help effectively?
We always assume that African states have a specific historical and cultural path of their own. Many of the present-day problems of the African continent ensue from its colonial past, voluntarily drawn borders, complicated ethnical, tribal, and religious structure. In these circumstances, imposing external (mostly Western) state and economic models on African countries may be counter-productive. In the majority of cases, those prescriptions have to do with exerting pressure or sanctions-related threats. The only body that is authorized to take legitimate restrictive steps is the UN Security Council. This must always be done in accordance with the UN Charter and in order to curb threats to international peace and security, first of all – to stop violence. But those instruments must not be used to ensure political dominance. What’s even more unacceptable is using such instruments alongside with economic blackmail.
Speaking about the UN at large, its support for African states should focus on providing socio-economic assistance, creating favorable conditions for social development, building effective national systems of education, healthcare, preventing “brain drain”. At the international level, it is important to effect concrete results in eliminating the misbalances in financial and technological areas, overcoming discrimination and double standards when it comes to allocating funds via Bretton Woods institutions. Without a qualitative breakthrough, fragmented efforts in the area of state- and peacebuilding cannot yield lasting results.
Speaking about stability in Africa, we cannot avoid a question how to silence the guns in Africa. Recently, there has been more understanding that regional efforts are preferable, and in some cases – irreplaceable. As a rule, Africans have a better knowledge of local specifics. Unfortunately, we have seen many cases when African mediator efforts were sidetracked or deliberately undermined by external stakeholders. I imply Libya, South Sudan, and many other country files. Turning to the recent past, we can recall the lack of readiness to account for the clear position of the African Union and sub-regional organizations regarding the lifting of arms embargo from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. These steps are long overdue, because the current situation prevents national law enforcement in those countries from stabilizing the situations at home.
We believe it justified that African countries have raised the issue of providing material and financial assistance to measures for maintenance of international peace and security, i.a. as part of UN-AU Partnership. We agree that enhancing predictability, reliability and flexibility of financing of African and joint UN-AU missions is a pivotal aspect. We have no principled objections to considering possible expansion of UN engagement in such missions, and we are ready for further constructive dialogue on this matter. Thereby we must note that this discussion has been held at the United Nations for many years by now, and we know too well what countries impede the adoption of meaningful decisions. As a pretext, they cite the lack of trust in African efforts; or sometimes make special pre-conditions related to human rights issues and the like.
In the meantime, Africans remain actively involved in maintaining peace and security on the continent, of which there are numerous examples. The African mission in Somalia keeps operating. Joint steps of Mozambique, South African Development Community, and Rwanda in countering terrorist threats in Cabo Delgado have proven efficient, same can be said about the activity of the AU Regional Task Force Against the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ in northern Uganda, and also the fight against ‘Boko Haram’.
But it should be noted that the key to the success of regional efforts is a common assessment by the countries of the region of the existing threats and ways to overcome them, a real readiness to bear the risks when those threats are curbed, and the creation of a well-coordinated system of command and control. As for financing methods, no matter which of them may seem the most suitable, in all instances the initiating countries should always have enough room for their own political decisions with regard to countering threats. So articulating a consolidated African position on the modalities of financing of its operations and the use of the African Union Peace Fund is key in this regard.
Russia has always supported African states, and today we keep contributing to efforts aimed at enhancing their potential. We never impose any scenarios on whoever, we never mentor anyone. We are glad that African states highly appreciate our assistance. Thereby we remain convinced that all countries in Africa have a sovereign right to choose their own alliances. It is the diversity of partnerships that makes it possible to maintain a political balance in many regions and help them terminate their dependence on former colonial powers.
In light of a terrorist threat, we believe it important to build up potential for cooperation with African partners on issues of countering terrorism – both bilaterally and at regional and global platforms. At the moment, we are working through the issue of coordination with the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism in Algiers. We stand ready to share our expertise in this area.
We pay much attention to the issue of training of African personnel. Police and military officers from African states, including future peacekeepers, yearly do their studies in Russia. Assistance is also provided to them in the area of civilian occupation. Today, approximately 27 thousand African students are studying in Russia, more than 5 thousand of them receive educational grants funded from the Russian budget.
We do hope that Russia-Africa summit which is expected to convene next year will let us host a detailed discussion of our existing paths of cooperation and promote our further engagement on a friendly, equal, and future-oriented basis.
Western states keep accusing Russia of “exporting hunger”. With the help of these groundless allegations, they try to conceal the real causes of the spike in food prices. Among them – the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, flawed policies of Western states, i.a. with regard to emission of currency, and their attempts to draw over the supply flows carrying food and cargoes. However, the guilty mind is never at ease, that is why they try to silence down the negative impact of illegal unilateral sanctions that have been imposed on Russia – one of the key global suppliers of food and fertilizer – and that have disrupted the existing financial, transportation and other supply chains. They slyly say that agricultural products and chemicals are exempt from sanctions, but what they forget to mention is that those disrupted supply chains is the most important factor influencing exports of our raw materials and fertilizers. In parallel to this, Western representatives travel across Africa trying to dissuade the locals from cooperating with Russia while threatening them with secondary sanctions.