Remarks by Minister Mushikiwabo at the 661st Ministerial meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council
Opening Remarks for the Chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council, Hon Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of The Republic Of Rwanda.
Addis Ababa, 23 February 2017
- Hon Ministers, dear colleagues;
- Members of the Peace and Security Council;
- Commissioner for Political Affairs;
- Commissioner for Peace and Security represented by Ag Director of Peace & Security Department
- Invited quests;
- Members of the media;
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me start by welcoming all of you to the Ministerial Session of the African Union Peace and Security Council. I would like to thank the Ministers and heads of delegations of the Peace and Security Council member states, African members of the UN Security Council, as well as representatives of various institutions for being with us in this meeting today.
Today, the Peace and Security Council will deliberate on two very important subjects related to Peace and Security in Africa.
First, there will be a discussion on Peace and Security at a time of accelerated integration, an era of free movement of people, goods and services. We will be looking at how to prepare in terms of security. This will be discussed in a broader context of achieving the vision of a borderless Africa.
The second topic to be deliberated on this afternoon will be the Protection of Children from Fighting Wars of Adults: Highlighting the Case of Child Soldiers.
On free movement: The concept of unrestricted movement of People, Goods and Services in Africa is not new, as we all know. It is has been discussed several times by the Assembly, African leaders at AU Summits and several Decisions have been taken in that regard. It is the very essence of our integration.
You will also recall that during the African Union Summit held in Kigali in July last year, our Heads of State and Government, launched the African Union Passport and encouraged African States to adopt it in order to promote Africa’s integration agenda.
It is our belief that some kind of agreement, preparation and protocol need to be focused towards this matter to ultimately use the passport.
Further, in order to move forward on this important agenda, some countries in Africa, including my own, had earlier on, opened up their borders to all Africans citizens, removing the requirement to obtain a visa prior to traveling, instead issue entry visa upon arrival at various entry points.
Despite what our leaders have agreed to and good examples from some parts of the continent, particularly in the ECOWAS and EAC, free movement remains largely restricted in Africa.
We should therefore address the hindrances to fully achieve the goal of free movement of our people, goods and services, and fast track Africa’s integration.
The unease to open up borders is often associated with the fear of criminal activities such as terrorists and other criminals freely or easily crossing borders perpetuating their illegal activities in different countries. It is indeed a concern, but it does not need to be a hindrance. That is why we believe preparing our countries in terms of security is important. We need to use African security experts to facilitate the achievement of free movement of people and goods on the continent.
Examples from few countries that have opened up for Africans to enter their countries without the need for visa prior to travel have shown that to a large extent, security is only one of many concerns and not the most complicated.
A case in point are the benefits that countries in the East African Community are enjoying as a result of free movement of people, goods and services.
This meeting I believe will look into all the security challenges related to opening up borders, and drawing from examples around the continent in order to address fears of countries. Together we will explore what path and measures to take in order for our continental security institutions to help mitigate genuine impediments to African citizens moving freely on the continent, while keeping our countries safe.
We are fortunate to have with us today, Brigadier General, Joseph Nzabamwita, the Chairperson of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) who will share with the Peace and Security Council some intelligence analysis and ideas on achieving free movement of people, goods and services without comprising security in African countries.
The second topic, which will be discussed this afternoon, is on Children Fighting wars of Adult.
A significant size of the population in many African conflicts consists of children. Studies have estimated that 40% of all child soldiers globally, are active on the African continent. Clearly, we must do something about this as Africans.
This is a situation that is unacceptable! Our children should be in schools and not on frontlines of wars they have nothing to do with.
This is an immense problem that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union should discuss and propose methods to address it.
We will receive briefings from the African Union and from experts in the field including from retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, former Senator and founder of Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.
The Peace and Security Council will then discuss among others on, innovation in peace keeping and peace making to bring an end to the use of children as weapons of war.
Ladies and gentlemen;
I look forward to fruitful discussions, which I believe will take our countries Africa a bit of a in addressing the two problems mentioned.
I thank you for your attention.