Secretary-General: I am very pleased to be back in Addis for wide-ranging conversations with African leaders and with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Joining me are two members of my senior leadership team – Under-Secretary-General Hannah Tetteh, my Special Representative to the African Union, and Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
Solidarity with the African Union.
Solidarity with the African people, around the continent.
The entire United Nations system is united in our support for African efforts to advance peace, prosperity and human rights across the continent.
And the strategic partnership between the African Union and the United Nations is of enormous importance to the world.
As we saw this morning, our relationship is growing ever stronger and more dynamic, particularly on the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, human rights, gender equality, climate change and sustainable development in the context of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.
In our conversations today we took stock of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Here, too, we want to build on African successes and advances such as the African Continental Free Trade Area. We need a fair globalization so that Africa no longer suffers from unfair trading and financial rules, subsidies and other policies and market distortions that perpetuate inequality and make it harder for Africa to compete and prosper.
We also discussed the climate crisis. Africa has done the least to cause this emergency yet suffers some of its most devastating consequences. To address those consequences, I continue to press for greater international support for financing, adaptation and resilience across the continent. Global commitment is needed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, including by the big emitters.
It is essential that the developed world reduces its emissions. It is essential that other big emitters reduce their emissions. It’s essential that the developed world strongly supports Africa in adaptation, in building resilience and in the financial requirements that Africa needs to face climate change.
There is also a link between climate change and the unprecedented locust crisis plaguing Ethiopia and East Africa.
Warmer seas mean more cyclones generating the perfect breeding ground for locusts.
Today locust swarms are as big as major cities – and it is getting worse by the day.
The FAO tells us a swarm the size of Paris will consume, in one day, as much food as half the population of France.
I express my deep solidarity with the people and communities affected. The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for assistance. I ask the international community to respond with speed and generosity to ensure an effective response and control the infestation while we still have the chance.
Q & A :
Question: What are your thoughts on China’s efforts in containing the Coronavirus?
Secretary-General: Well, I just received the reports of the report of the World Health Organization. I was in close contact with the Director-General [of the WHO]. It is clear that there is a massive effort that is being made by China in order to contain the disease and to avoid its propagation. And I think that that effort is remarkable. The Chinese themselves recognize that the dimension is such that there are some handicaps and problems that have to be addressed. But, we are also at the same time, committed to the World Health Organization to support all countries, namely African countries, in order to develop the capacities necessary to contain the disease when it propagates to other countries in the world. I think this is a serious epidemic situation that requires a very strong international cooperation, solidarity.
Question: Also on Coronavirus. Ethiopian Airlines chose not to cancel it flights to China Do you think stopping flights to China is a solution? What should the international community do to contain the virus.
Secretary-General: The World Health Organization has presented a number of recommendations in relation to mobility, which I also had recommendations. In relation to UN staff, what we have done is that we go on authorizing movement of UN staff to China, if there are needs for that, but with recommendation that to do it only when it is absolutely necessary, and, at the same time, when they come back, we asked them to stay two weeks in their homes, in the system of, I would say, kind of quarantine.
Obviously, we need to have very close cooperation between all states in order to make the global economy move because, if not, the conditions would be tragic tragic, but, at the same time, to take all precautions to limit the propagation of the virus. In this regard, I think it’s important also, to say that we need to avoid the stigmatization that can sometimes accompany a situation like this, in which all of a sudden people that have nothing to do with it are stigmatized for any reason. So I think it’s important to keep a very strong human rights perspective in the way the international community deals with the Coronavirus.
Question: From South African Broadcasting, what is your message to the leaders of South Sudan. Also what is your message about the Sahel and Libya, as well as the feelings of alienation of the African Union.
Secretary-General: The South Sudanese people’s suffering is something that I feel very deeply and very emotionally.
When I started my functions as High Commissioner for Refugees, fifteen years ago in 2005, I started in the beginning of June. That same month I to celebrate World Refugee Day in Uganda in a refugee camp of South Sudanese. The peace agreements had been established and you can imagine the joy of the refugees, hoping to go back home soon.
Then I had the opportunity to travel by truck with a family of South Sudanese from Uganda, to somewhere close to a Yei in South Sudan. And again, you can’t imagine the emotions when feels when see the people coming back to their village and then seeing members of their family and friends and the reunification and the hope that the country will be in peace forever, and that a future of prosperity would be open to all South Sudanese.
Now you can imagine the frustration every lift this joy of the South Sudanese creating peace, the frustration I felt when, again, as High Commissioner for Refugees, I visited South Sudan and I saw hundreds of thousands of people displaced. And I visited again, South Sudanese refugees, namely in Uganda, already as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Those that had left the country were able to be back and have to leave again. And the suffering of the South Sudanese people, the level of poverty, the level of malnutrition of the children, it’s absolutely unimaginable the number of rapes of sexual violence of all kinds. It’s absolutely unimaginable.
So, I have one with one simple message to the leaders of the country: think about your people. Respect your people.
You have not the right to continue a confrontation when your people are suffering so much. It is your moral and political responsibility to put an end to this and to find the agreements that are necessary to make South Sudan enter into a normal life.
It is for me totally unacceptable, that we are still again, close to the deadline of a new period that was declared, that there is no agreement on a number of issues.
It’s time for South Sudanese leaders to agree to cooperate and to deserve the wonderful people they have.
Now, I already mentioned what I believe about the Sahel, I think we need to have a much stronger international cooperation. I think we need the G5 Sahel to have a mandate and the chapter VII, with assessed contributions, and I think we need a broader international coalition.
I was very happy to see ECOWAS moving forward, a broader international coalition also with a very strong support of the international community. It’s not only a question of security, it is also a question of development, of resilience to climate change, so that solidarity needs to be much stronger than what it has been until now.
And in relation to the frustration at the African Union about Libya, I fully understand that frustration. Let’s remember 2011, there was a mission that the African Union prepared to go to Tripoli, aiming at convincing Col. Gaddafi to leave, but this was the moment in which this was neglected. And, as you know, the Security Council took a decision, bombardment started, and even the mandate of the Security Council was clearly changed in the sense that the operations that took place went far beyond what the mandate of protection of civilians had established.
And so from that time, clearly, I felt that there was a feeling that Africa has been put aside in relation to Libya and I fully understand his frustration. That is the reason why we are very keen to stress our cooperation the African Union, that is the reason why today a very important meeting with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. And we will be fully supportive of the forum organized by the African Union for reconciliation. And we want to have the African Union representatives in the premises of the UN mission [in Tripoli] and we want the representatives of the African Union to be present in all the meetings, the UN will be organizing now in the follow up of the Berlin Conference and all the other intra-Libyan meetings, because we believe that it is absolutely essential to associate the African Union in searching a solution for the Libyan people.
Question: Can you share with us what the United Nations is doing to combat the Coronavirus?
Secretary-General: As I said, the World Health Organization, has issued a number of recommendations that try to preserve the normal working of the global economy and avoid the disruptions that could be created. At the same time recommended caution in relation to the movements. It has not been recommended by the World Health Organization, to forbid flights or to more radical measures of this nature. I think it’s important, as I said, a very strong international cooperation based on solidarity. And it’s also important to avoid any form of stigmatization, but it is also important that we all take, as we are taking in the UN, our precautions.
As I said, UN staff is going on moving to China. We do it based on needs and also taking the precautions in relation to people coming back that they do themselves and they have been doing voluntarily without any difficulty or problem, to stay and to work from home during two weeks to allow for the period of possible incubation to be completely removed.
So, we have been, as I said, very diverse organization has been icing very reasonable but at the same time, very committed to support China and to support all other countries. For this epidemic situation to be contained as quickly as possible and to have negative impacts as limited as possible in relation to the global society in the global economy.
Question: This is RFI in Portuguese: I would like to ask what your opinion on the long electoral deadlock in Guinea-Bissau is, which made some of the people here (in the African Union) perplexed. (I am referring) to invitations sent to envoys from Umaro Sissoco Embaló which were later withdrew. What do you think about this impasse…?
Secretary-General: Look, the impasse and the political crisis concerned us profoundly. It also lasted a long time. Yet, it is necessary to recognize that Guinea-Bissau has gone through political crises (all along) but at the same time the country has prevented those crises from becoming an armed conflict, what has happened in many other countries. Due to this, I want to pay tribute to the (Bissau-) Guinean people. They have demonstrated amidst all the political complexities great common sense. Secondly, at this moment, there is a pending process, as we await, in a serene manner, the outcomes of this process, so that the electoral process is concluded. Therefore, the United Nations will not make any move, for now, as we will await the final decision.
Question: What is your assessment of the humanitarian situation in Nigeria, including attacks on humanitarian workers? Do you have confidence in the Nigerian security forces?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, the United Nations agencies have been very solidly involved in relation to the humanitarian aid to the victims of Boko Haram, both in Nigeria and in the countries around. I myself remember visiting, when I still was High Commissioner for Refugees, Nigerian refugees in Cameroon victims exactly of the persecution by Boko Haram. And our agencies will be and will go on being very, very active in the support to all humanitarian actions to those victims and appealing to the international community to strengthen their support.
At the same time, when I mentioned what I mentioned about the Sahel, I think the same can be said about Lake Chad. We have been saying that we have a security presence on the ground of the armed forces of the countries involved in Lake Chad – Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria – that is out of proportion with the terrorist threats and that is why we believe we need much more international solidarity in relation to those countries, in order to give them the capacity to respond much better. Unfortunately, due to the enormous insecurity in the region, humanitarians have been one of the first victims.
I would say the two professions that have most suffered because of conflict in the world are journalists and humanitarians.
My very strong appeal is for the full respect of international humanitarian law, in which one of the main principles is that no humanitarian worker can be attacked in any circumstance.
Question: And when you have mentioned the need and you call for the creation of a new African force, under Chapter VII, for Libya. Am I right?
Secretary-General: No, no, no. I’ve been strongly supportive of the need to have African forces in counterterrorism and in peace enforcement with the Chapter VII mandate from the Security Council, and with mandatory contributions.
And I mentioned it, in relation to the Sahel where that question was discussed, which is why the G5 Sahel was formed, but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to have Security Council support for that.
And obviously, in other circumstances, we can have these kinds of forces. But obviously, these kinds of forces require a number of conditions. The first condition is, of course, the consent of the governments involved. So obviously, I was not invoking this possibility in relation to the situation in Libya in the present conflict that exists.
Question: My question with regards to the UN mission in Mali, in the Sahel, and also the G5 force that’s that hasn’t been very successful. How do you understand that? Why is it not a very successful? And why would you like to see the same thing in Libya eventually. Could you elaborate on complicity of some of the big powers in Libya?
Secretary-General: It’s very simple in relation to the situation in the Sahel, you have MINUSMA, which is a peacekeeping operation. The objective of peacekeeping is to keep the peace that exists, and they operate in a country where there is no peace to keep, and MINUSMA, as you know, has had a series of very meaningful casualties in trying to protect civilians in that very difficult situation. But what I said is that peacekeeping is not enough you need peace, enforcing and for peace enforcing we have the G5 Sahel. But the G5 Sahel has a a lack of resources, and still a number of difficulties of organization that are exactly because of the low, relatively weak mandate they received, and the lack of adequate financing and support from the international community. And that is the reason why I’ve been advocating for African forces more robust and, in the case of G5 Sahel, we will probably need an even larger alliance and with the kind of mandates and the kind of financing that is absolutely necessary.
In relation to Libya, I think we all know what has been made public in relation to different countries that have providing equipment to both sides, that have, from their nationalities, mercenaries or contractors operating, and even in other situations, soldiers directly involved.
Question: You are following efforts by Angola as a facilitator in the Great Lakes region. The Luanda Summit, recently, has gathered the Presidents of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. In a fortnight, Angola will call another Summit looking for peace in the Great Lakes region. What is the support from the United Nations (in this case) and what do you think about these efforts?
Secretary-General: I have followed it and we deeply support these crucial efforts. The stability of the Great Lakes is vital for the entire African continent given its geographical nature and given the interrelations that this region has with the rest of the continent.
Question: Is there a very particular effort by President João Lourenço (of Angola)?
Secretary-General: And this effort is fully supported by me.