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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement to the UN Security Council Ministerial on Africa
New York, New York, September 24, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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Thank you, Mr. President.

A year ago, we held the Security Council’s first-ever Africa ministerial. We hoped to build a new and lasting partnership between Africa and the world, based on common interests, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to peace, prosperity and freedom.

Since then, some African countries and institutions have made inspiring progress:

The majority of African nations are registering economic growth, as a result of the difficult, but necessary steps they have taken toward participation in global markets.

In nations such as Botswana and Mozambique, democracy continues to put down strong roots. And new hope has emerged for Nigeria’s long-delayed return to democratic rule.

Organizations such as ECOWAS and the Organization of African Unity are pursuing innovative approaches to preventing and ending conflicts. Perhaps most encouraging is the moratorium on the manufacture and trade in small arms proposed by a group of West African nations.

In December, I had a very successful trip to six African nations. In March, President Clinton and nine African leaders pledged to work for peace, development and the rule of law at the Entebbe Summit.

And in April, here in New York, the Secretary-General submitted a thoughtful and comprehensive report on peace and development in Africa.

I wish that we had more good news. But the truth is that tragedy and conflict have led the news from Africa this year, and it dominates our thoughts as we meet today.

Just last month, we were shocked and saddened by tragic terrorist attacks in Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam and Cape Town. Let me take this opportunity to once again congratulate local authorities for their diligence in pursuing those responsible; and to express America’s sorrow for those who were hurt or lost loved ones.

But acts of terror were not the only disturbing events of recent months. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and from Africa’s western coast to its southern highlands, countries which had begun to recover from strife are being swept back into it; societies which were beginning to rebuild are seeing their labors lost; and governments which had moved toward democracy are retreating into tyranny.

For example, the dangerous standoff in the Horn of Africa threatens to become a full-scale inter-state war, Africa’s first this decade.

A bloody crisis in Congo has undone progress achieved since the departure of former President Mobutu. It has ensnared the armies of neighboring countries, sparking inter-ethnic violence and raising again the specter of genocide.

And in Angola, the parties have left the path to peace laid out in the Lusaka Protocol and are poised to drag the country back into civil war, fueled by months of new arms purchases.

These and other conflicts are taking a tremendous toll: in regional trust eroded, in development opportunities lost, and most important, in human lives.

The leaders of countries in crisis have a choice. They can stop now, and prevent the slide back to full-scale war. They can be statesmen, and guide their nations toward a future of cooperation. Or they can continue full-tilt into the past -- a past of hatred, violence, instability and isolation.

No one else -- not their neighbors, and not the international community -- can make that choice for them.

But the international community does have a critical role to play. Our nations, acting together, can make it harder to solve disputes through violence; and we can make it easier for African nations to choose and keep to the path of peace.

We thank the Secretary-General for his personal engagement in these difficult challenges. And we welcome the response his report has generated. Already we have seen important proposals for improving cooperation between the UN and the OAU, improving the effectiveness of arms embargoes, and developing African peacekeeping capacity. And the United States looks forward to leading the working group on maintaining the security and neutrality of refugee camps.

The working group led by Japan has correctly singled out an area where the international community could quickly make a great deal of difference: the uncontrolled flow of arms, ammunition and explosives into Africa’s tensest areas. This dirty business fuels conflict, fortifies extremism, and destabilizes entire regions.

All of us whose nations sell such weapons, or through whose nations the traffic flows, bear some responsibility for turning a blind eye to the destruction they cause. And all of us have it in our power to do something in response.

Together, we should move now to curb arms transfers to zones of conflict in Africa. We should begin by committing to full and timely disclosure of all arms shipments into those regions. And we should seek to build international support, over the next six months, for a voluntary moratorium on arms sales that could fuel these interconnected conflicts.

The United States also proposes that governments and international and nongovernmental organizations meet to exchange information on regional arms transfers and to explore further steps.

Second, arms control and sanctions regimes are only as strong as their enforcement. And whether the sanctions in question are aimed at a war nearby or a would-be proliferator far away, the international community as a whole will gain from stronger sanctions regimes.

We therefore urge UN member states with relevant expertise to prepare programs strengthening the capacity of African governments to monitor and interdict arms flows. The United States is currently considering what training and equipment we could usefully contribute, and we would welcome proposals from others.

The UN could also develop a clearinghouse for technical information and for rapid exchange of data on possible violations.

Finally, sanctions cannot work where there is no national legislation enforcing them and no penalties for violators. Member states that do not have such legislation should strive to enact it.

The threat posed by arms flows, particularly small arms, is by no means limited to the African continent. The Government of Mali and others, notably those of Norway and Canada, have done a great deal to bring this problem to the world's attention. Let me take this opportunity to welcome those initiatives, and to propose two urgent steps for worldwide action.

First, we must put in place responsible arms transfer practices that are effective worldwide. Negotiations have begun, under UN auspices, on a convention based on the pathbreaking OAS Convention Against Illicit Trafficking. We should conclude those talks by the year 2000. That should also serve as a target date to restrict the export of shoulder-fired missiles.

And second, we should establish an international center to collect and share information on arms transfers.

Last year we left this ministerial with new momentum behind us and high hopes before us. The majority of African states continue to move ahead, with able leaders and citizens committed to progress and hopeful for the future. Unfortunately, in some key countries, we have seen a failure in leadership. And in too many places, the rule of law is losing out to the law of force.

Secretary-General Annan has eloquently appealed to the continent’s leaders to "summon the will to resolve our problems by political, not military means. For every day that we fail to do so, the innocent people of the continent pay a terrible price." And he has urged us all, Africans and non-Africans, to summon our will, and "rise to the challenges" we face in Africa.

I hope that we will all leave New York resolved to summon our will, and to act. And I pledge that, through the steps I have outlined today and by supporting African aspirations for peace and justice, the United States will do its part.

Thank you.

[End of Document]

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