|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Uganda on Conclusion of Two-Year Security Council Tenure
Ruhakana Rugunda, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations, called today for a greater focus by the Security Council on preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding as he surveyed a range of situations in Africa.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference on his country’s two-year tenure on the Council, Mr. Rugunda said: “We found it rewarding, we have learned, we made contributions.” He pledged that Uganda would continue to focus on peace and security in the region, even from outside the Council.
He said more work was needed, particularly in creating adequate coherence between peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and development. It was imperative that the United Nations work more closely with international financial institutions in that regard. He also underlined the importance of national ownership of peacebuilding programmes, pointing out that “great solutions cooked up in New York” were not always effective in conflict situations. National authorities might make mistakes, but they would gain experience as time went on, he added.
Describing returns on investing in conflict prevention as “overwhelming”, Mr. Rugunda said it could help avoid destruction, loss of life and expensive peacekeeping missions. He welcomed the African Union’s focus on preventive diplomacy, as well as that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Recalling the wide participation in the recent Council debate on women and peace and security, under Uganda’s October Presidency, he welcomed the presidential statement resulting from that meeting, which approved monitoring parameters and could help ensure that women played their rightful role in peace processes. “Their energies, talent and wisdom have often been ignored,” he said.
Turning to specific situations, he said Southern Sudan had, at long last, obtained some reasonable peace. Uganda was prepared to work with a united Sudan or with two countries, if the people of Southern Sudan opted for independence during the 9 January referendum. He commended the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as well as the United Nations, on the progress made thus far.
Regarding Côte d'Ivoire, he agreed with the position taken by ECOWAS, the African Union and the Security Council, that the challenger had won the recent presidential election and should be able to “take over the reins”. The threats against the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) must stop, he said, emphasizing: “Elections must be meaningful and when people decide, their choice must be respected.” At the same time the safety of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo must be assured, he added.
On Somalia, he said it was no wonder that country had become a breeding ground for pirates and terrorists, having lacked a Government for nearly 20 years. The problem would only expand unless the international community took take firm action, he said, stressing that Africa must continue to play a decisive role, as it had done in deploying the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and supporting the Djibouti Peace Process. He welcomed the Council’s authorization of an increase in troop strength for the Mission, saying it could give the Transitional Federal Government room to grow stronger.
As for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel militia that had originated in northern Uganda, he said he wished to see United Nations missions in Central and Eastern African play a more active role in containing the menace.
On Western Sahara, he said he would like to see the Council take a firmer position to ensure the holding of the referendum that had been decided upon in 1991, so that the Sahrawi people could decide whether to become independent or remain part of Morocco. Given reports of massive human rights violations in Western Sahara, he added, it was necessary to ensure that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) had a clear mandate to monitor such issues. In addition, the exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources must be done with the permission of its people, who must benefit from them.
Responding to a question about the 20 December attack on a Uganda-bound bus in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Rugunda said he had heard conflicting reports but found it hard to imagine that the attack had been carried out by a lone actor.
Asked whether President Gbagbo should be offered a safe exit from Côte d’Ivoire if he had committed serious crimes, he said that would cause problems, but otherwise he should be given the choice of remaining or leaving safely. The priority now was to put a solution in place before the situation got out of hand.
Questioned about Security Council reform, he said Uganda “squarely” backed the African position of two seats for the region, with veto power. He added that while he was a fervent believer in a “United States of Africa”, he was at the same time a realist and saw the African Union as a nucleus. Programmes for building the African Union’s capacity, conducted with the United Nations and the European Union, were a step towards greater unity, as was Africa’s growing role in security through such missions as AMISOM and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Africa was a rising giant with deepening economic integration, he said, adding that the continent could compete with any other region were it not for subsidies.
* *** *For information media • not an official record