Modise tells Moscow conference warmongers must be brought to book

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Thandi Modise, South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, used the platform provided by this week’s 10th Moscow Conference on International Security to call for “warmongers to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table of peace and multilateralism”.

She was one of 35 defence ministers from Africa, Asia and Latin America reportedly at the two-day event hosted by General Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence in President Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation, which has been  engaged in what was termed “a special military operation” since February this year. Her “remarks” to the conference were delivered under the title “multilateralism and Africa: silencing the guns” and ranged from South Africa’s efforts and involvement in continental peacekeeping operations to reforming the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and “the reality of interdependence of nations” binding all by a common destiny.

She told delegates South Africa “will never walk away from her moral and international obligations to contribute meaningfully to global peace efforts within the constraints of our own limited resources”. This was because “our own silence, inaction and selective morality allowed warlords to reign supreme across the world” and their “deadly agendas” to flourish unabated.

In an oblique reference to South Africa’s position on the Russia/Ukraine conflict, Modise told delegates the country was “always ready” to engage in efforts to resolve conflict. This echoes what President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly said to Putin in a March phone call and National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s presence on an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) task team mediating the war. Another indication of the South African position on the war came in one of Ramaphosa’s weekly “From the Desk of the President” missives. In the second week of March he wrote South Africa’s abstention from a UN vote on the war, which started when Russia attacked Ukraine from multiple directions on 20 February this year, was “because the resolution did not foreground the call for meaningful engagement”.

Modise told the conference in the Russian Federation capital its objectives were “consistent” with Africa’s vision of a peaceful and conflict-free continent. “We will never tire as Africa, in our collective determination to make silencing the guns, the African Union (AU) flagship project of Agenda 2063, a reality.”

Africa, she said, has “seen enough destruction and bloodshed at times from unnecessary conflict,” adding that failure to speak up “could make us complicit in further human rights violations, deepening poverty and displacement”.

Modise told delegates the Moscow security conference provided “space” to reflect “on our reality as Africa”.

“Southern Africa has seen an increase in natural disasters, sluggish economic reforms and growth, new forms of extremisms and terrorism. Gender-based violence is on the increase. There is a war waged against the majority in our societies – women – in their homes, streets and villages. Scarcity, water and energy challenges present another front.

“In almost all regions of Africa, religious extremism, coups d’état and the rise of ‘strong men’ show the link between socio-economic challenges and political inefficiencies. It is evident when the war against terrorism succeeds, perpetrators relocate or mutate to different locations.”

South Africa, according to her, is a key player in making peace in Africa contributing to regional and continental efforts. This takes the form of maintaining and upholding the rule of law, conducting peacekeeping and assisting in post-conflict reconstruction. South Africa also trains and integrated opposing forces and “when called on” provided support other than military.

On the Security Council, Modise said South Africa’s call for its reform stands.

“We firmly believe regional multilateral systems must reinforce stability rather than stifle national growth and development. Working together as different nations and continents must lead to practical and lasting solutions to global insecurity.”