UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for bolstered international support to tackle persisting mercenaries in Africa.
Speaking via teleconference from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the UN Security Council on Monday, February 4th, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, recalled Africa’s history, since the 1960s, being “punctuated by the involvement of mercenaries in activities of destabilization, including coups, interventions in armed conflicts and attempts to seize control of natural resources in the countries concerned,” endangering the harmonious development of African states.
According to the chairperson, while efforts have been made over the years to combat the scourge, mercenaries persist. “It is clear that we have to strengthen international instruments as they relate to this phenomenon”, he maintained.
Moreover, Mr. Faki Mahamat said he “could not stress enough” the need for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in countries emerging from conflict. He called for “increased international support” to tackle the persistence of mercenaries across the continent.
With mercenaries undermining global peace and security and weakening states’ capacities to protect their people, the UN Security Council shone its spotlight on their activities as a source of destabilization in Africa.
“From antiquity to the medieval era to the present-day, those who fight for financial reward or other material compensation have been a near constant on the battlefield”, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Council, noting that the shadowy nature of mercenary activities has evolved over the years.
“Today they are exploiting and feeding off other ills such as transnational organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism,” he told the meeting, which was convened by Equatorial Guinea, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month.
Their activities in Africa require “work across the spectrum”, Mr. Guterres stated, “from prevention to prosecution, and from mitigating the impacts of mercenary activities to addressing the root causes that give rise to them”.
He zeroed-in on mercenary activities in the Sahel, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and emphasised specific actions needed to resist their scourge, including strengthening legal regimes and frameworks.
Mr. Guterres vowed that the UN Regional Office for Central Africa and the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa would continue to help advance the African Union’s ‘Silencing the Guns by 2020’ agenda.
He pointed to the importance of cooperation, such as mixed border commissions, joint border security monitoring mechanisms and intelligence-sharing between national defence forces, highlighting as “vital”, a strategic partnership between the UN, African Union (AU), Economic Community of Central Africa States and region countries.
He also said it was critical to create opportunities for youth to reduce “the lure of mercenaries and the threat of radicalisation”, underscoring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can help with this and more.
He concluded with the UN’s promise of continued support in “tackling mercenary activities”.
For his part, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the President of Equatorial Guinea, said that after more than 50 years of independence, most African countries have yet to know peace or socioeconomic development, “despite the great economic potential they have in natural resources”.
“Africa remains the least developed continent” he attested, calling mercenaries one of “the potential causes of this delay”.
Mr. Mbasogo spoke of five different attempts in his own country over the last quarter century, with the last attempt thwarted by Angola, Zimbabwe and Cameroon.