Africa should stop relying on foreign interventions to address conflicts within the continent, the Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community minister has said.
Dr Richard Sezibera was on Wednesday speaking in Kigali during a public lecture on Kigali Principles, a UN-backed framework with 18 recommendations adopted in the Rwandan capital in May 2015.
At the heart of the Kigali Principles is safety and protection of civilians in conflict zones and Sezibera said the non-binding mechanism has potential to empower Africa to face conflicts on the continent head-on without having to wait for external solutions.
“There are more conflicts outside Africa than in Africa,” he said. “But Africa has for a long time been outsourcing the management of our conflicts.”
When there are conflicts in Europe, he said, “the Europeans manage them. When there are conflicts in Latin America, the South Americans manage them and Asia manages its own conflicts too.”
In Africa we outsource conflict managers, he noted.
“Because of that the world sees us as a continent of conflict,” the minister observed. “That has to change, and it is changing. And that is why it cannot be business as usual. The Kigali Principles are important in showing that when we manage our own conflicts we will do so with sensitivity, commitment, and especially the determination to protect our own citizens in case of conflict.”
The public lecture saw speakers, including political and military leaders as well as academics, discuss peacekeeping challenges and perspectives on the protection of civilians under the Kigali Principles framework, which provides a blueprint to strengthen international community’s commitment to effectively protect civilians.
As the world changes, Sezibera said, “so is the nature of conflict”.
The Kigali Principles framework is part of the current evolution of thinking and, although non-binding, represents a critical step in the right direction, he said.
“We cannot live as if the world around us has not changed,” Sezibera said. “The conversation [on the Kigali Principles] is important particularly for Africa.”
He pointed out that the dialogue was consistent with the vision of the Government of Rwanda on protection of civilians.
Rwanda is the fourth largest contributor of peacekeepers globally.
Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, the Chief of Defence Staff of Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), elaborated on how Kigali Principles enhances peacekeepers’ mandate to protect civilian populations.
Nyamvumba, who served in Sudan as Force Commander of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur from 2009-2013, said the idea behind the commitments under the Kigali Principles was to come up with a common framework to guide peacekeepers during their missions, with a special focus on effective protection of civilians.
The mechanism also seeks to ensure properly trained peacekeepers, adequate equipment, and strong political commitment.
“Without effective protection of civilians, the whole idea of having a peacekeeping mission does not make sense. I appeal to all countries that have not signed up to the Principles to do so because they are a very good tool to work with in preserving human life.”
Dr Francois Masabo, the acting director general of the Centre for Conflict Management (CCM), who was one of the panelists, hailed the Kigali Principles saying they place civilians at the centre of peacekeeping missions.
The document represents a shift from state-centered to people-centered interventions, he said.
According to Dr Jean Paul Kimonyo, a presidential advisor, the Kigali Principles was informed by experiences on the ground.
“It is clear and was written by people who have been on the ground and know what they are talking about.”
The event was organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross.