Insights on the PSC – Ministerial session on ‘National Reconciliation, Restoration of Peace, Security and Rebuilding of Cohesion in Africa’

Date | 05 December, 2019

Tomorrow  (5  December  2019)  the  African  Union  (AU)  Peace and Security Council is scheduled to hold a ministerial  session  under  the  theme  ‘National  Reconciliation, Restoration of Peace, Security and Rebuilding of Cohesion in Africa’.

Apart  from  members  of  the  PSC,  non‐PSC  AU  member  states including Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African  Republic,  Mali  and  Niger  are  also  expected  to  participate at the ministerial meeting.

This theme was inscribed into the program of the month for December on the initiative of Angola. The session is also  slated  to  take  place  in  the  capital  Luanda.  This  is  illustrative of the increasing regional and continental role Angola  has  come  to  play.  It  is  to  be  recalled  that  in  September Luanda played host to a major continental conference on the promotion of the culture of peace.

Indicating the significance of this session for Angola, the President of Angola, João Lourenço, is expected to open the  session.  Angola’s  experience  with  national  reconciliation, restoration of peace, security and rebuilding of cohesion in the aftermath of the long civil war  and  the  divisions  it  sowed  is  expected  to  be  highlighted.

The ministerial session is expected to provide a platform to  discuss  and  share  the  experience  of  participating states in national reconciliation and in building inclusive and  stable  societies.  A  number  of  issues  would  be  of  interest for PSC members. One such issue is to identify what  kind  of  reconciliation  processes  –  national  reconciliation commission, national dialogue or national consultations  –  that  member  states  deployed  in  the  search for national reconciliation and the institutional and  policy  measures  they  developed  for  inclusion,  representation, or sharing of power for achieving inclusive structures of government and fostering national cohesion.

Another  and  critical  issue  is  how  to  muster  decisive  political leadership and the will to make difficult compromises as a means of building trust and achieving national reconciliation. As the challenges in South Sudan or  Mali  show,  this  more  than  anything  else  is  the  key  ingredient for the success of initiatives for national reconciliation and rebuilding of cohesion.
The  timing  of  the  theme  of  this  session  is  of  particular  importance as it coincides with commencement of the 2020  AU  theme  of  the  year  focusing  on  Silencing  the  Guns in Africa as 2019 gets concluded in a few weeks’ time. Within this context, tomorrow’s session is expected to  draw  out  the  particular  contribution  of  its  thematic  focus towards the making progress to meet the ambition of silencing the guns in Africa. In this respect and as part of  the  effort  to  silence  the  guns,  an  important  consideration is the need to paying a more central attention  to  the  inclusion  and  promotion  of  arrangements for national reconciliation, restoration of peace,  security  and  rebuilding  of  national  cohesion  in peace processes for resolving existing conflicts or as part of  the  initiative  for  restoring  peace,  security  and  rebuilding cohesion in emerging crisis situations such as in  Cameroon  or  contested  political  transitions  such  as  Ethiopia.

Indeed,  national  reconciliation  and  rebuilding  of  cohesion are crucial at all stages of the conflict cycle from  prevention  to  post‐conflict  reconstruction  and  development. Such initiatives are important for countries having  peace  processes  for  resolving  existing  conflicts  such as the Central African Republic or South Sudan or Mali  and  for  countries  in  a  post‐conflict  phase  such  as  Cote d’Ivoire. Initiatives for national reconciliation and rebuilding  of  cohesion  are  also  important  for  conflict  prevention in countries with relative peace and stability. This  is  illustrated  for  example  by  recent  experiences  of  some AU member states such as the Building of Bridges Initiative  of  Kenya  and  the  provision,  as  part  of  the  on‐going transition facing contestations, for a national reconciliation commission in Ethiopia.

In all these different settings, some of the issues for the PSC and its member states include the role to be played by  the  AU  and  how  to  support  initiatives  for  national  reconciliation, restoration of peace, security and rebuilding  of  cohesion.  The  AU,  including  through  the  PSC, has on various occasions called for the ratification of various AU instruments. There are however gaps on how to give them domestic legislative, institutional and policy expression  and  translate  them  into  forms  of  inclusive  and representative political and socio‐economic governance structures.

This is not the first time that the PSC convenes a session on  subject  related  to  the  theme  of  tomorrow’s session.  Its 347th, 383rd, 409th, 525th, 672nd and 726th sessions also  focused  on  a  related  theme.  Indeed,  the  first  time  the PSC held ministerial level session on a related theme was at its 393rd session. That session was held in Algiers, Algeria,  on  29  June  2013  under  the  theme  ‘National  Reconciliation: A Crucial Factor for Security, Stability and Development in Africa’. Apart from highlighting what it called  elements  for  conducting  national  reconciliation,  the communique of this 383rd ministerial session underscored that ‘national reconciliation is an imperative for  overcoming  divisions  arising  from  conflict  and  restoring social cohesion, in order to ensure lasting stability and progress’.

The  communique  of  the  409th  session  of  the  PSC  recommended to the AU Assembly to declare ‘2014‐2024 as a decade of reconciliation in Africa with a view to  consolidating  peace,  stability  and  sustainable  development on the continent’, leading to the AU Assembly  decision  of  31  January  2014  declaring  ‘2014–2024 as the Madiba Nelson Mandela Decade of Reconciliation  in  Africa’.  Although  it  has  not  been  implemented, one of the important pronouncements of the 525th press statement of the PSC was the decision to make the theme a standing thematic agenda of the PSC to be reflected in the annual indicative calendar.

The  Press  Statement  of  the  last  PSC  session  on  this  theme at the 726th session of the PSC emphasized the importance  of  comprehensive  transitional  justice  and  reconciliation process, as being key to effectively preventing  relapses  and  laying  a  strong  foundation  for  sustainable peace in countries emerging from violent conflicts.  Affirming  the  critical  importance  of  national  ownership, it also underscored ‘the importance of building  and  further  enhancing  the  capacity  of  local,  national and regional justice systems, including peace committees,  peacebuilding  ministries  and  national  reconciliation commissions, as well as community and traditional  justice  systems.’  It  also  reiterated  previous  calls for expediating the process of the development and adoption of AU transitional justice policy instrument.

The  review  of  the  previous  sessions  highlights  that  at  least two elements were lacking. First, although these previous sessions benefited from the 2006 AU Policy on Post‐Conflict  Reconstruction  and  Development,  when  these previous sessions were held the AU transitional justice  policy  did  not  exist.  Second,  the  mechanism  for  following up the measures required to advance this thematic  agenda.   Tomorrow’s session takes place in a different context. First,  it  is  convened  after  the  adoption  of  the  AU  Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP), which was adopted by the  AU  Assembly  in  February  2019.  Apart  from  consolidating the key messages of previous PSC sessions on  this  theme  and  bringing  them  into  a  coherent  framework, this Policy presents, drawing from the rich and  diverse  national  reconciliation,  justice  and  peace‐making experiences of the continent, the principles, guidelines,  mechanisms  and  benchmarks  for  the  implementation of national transitional justice processes including  national  reconciliation  and  truth  seeking.  For  its implementation, the AUTJP is complemented, as highlighted  in  the  preface  to  the  policy  that  AU  Chairperson Mousa Faki Mahamat wrote, by the Study of the  African  Commission  on  Human  and  Peoples’  Rights  on Transitional Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. It  is  expected  that  the  PSC  would  underscore  national  reconciliation, restoration of peace, security and rebuilding  of  national  cohesion  to  be  indispensable  for  achieving progress in Africa’s quest for Silencing the Guns and should receive  particular attention during the  2020 theme of the year. The PSC is also expected to call for  the  implementation  of  previous  decisions  on  the  theme particularly the decision of its 525th for making the theme of the session a standing agenda item of the PSC. The PSC could also welcome the adoption by the AU Assembly  of  the  AUTJP  and  urge  member  states  to  use  the Policy in pursuing national reconciliation, restoration of  peace,  security  and  rebuilding  of  cohesion.  The  PSC  could also call on the AU Commission and the African Commission  on  Human  and  Peoples’  Rights  in  collaboration with member states to support the implementation  of  the  AUTJP  in  peace  processes,  peacebuilding, conflict prevention and national reconciliation initiatives and report to it on existing and emerging national initiatives.