Item 1207 - Address by Mr Nelson Mandela at the International Independent Commission on Kosovo's Final Seminar

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ZA COM MR-S-1207


Address by Mr Nelson Mandela at the International Independent Commission on Kosovo's Final Seminar


  • 2000-08-25 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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  • English

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In his opening address to the General Assembly in September 1999 Secretary- General Kofi Annan made a plea for United Nations intervention in cases of gross violations of human rights. We know that few states endorsed the remarks of the Secretary-General, and even fewer supported the Swedish position that "the collective conscience of mankind demands action."

The reluctance on the part of states is perhaps understandable due to a wariness of intervention too readily initiated; but we must all admire the determination of Secretary-General Annan and Sweden to end the conflicts which continue to plague so many regions of our world. It is hardly surprising that both had given their support to the International Independent Commission on Kosovo - a commission established to examine the events in Kosovo. Both Prime Minister Persson and Secretary-General Annan believe that to end conflict we must better understand it.

We must say to Secretary-general Annan that at a time when the quest for peace demands greater accountability on the part of states and international organisations for their actions, we are fortunate to have a man like him at the helm of the United Nations Organisation. In Africa we take a particular pride in him.

The quest for peace has created a need for even more dialogue on the international plane. The report of the Kosovo Commission will provide an independent assessment of conflict and intervention that can assist in advancing dialogue amongst all leaders, scholars and interested parties. It is vitally important that we engage in this discourse and discussion. The century behind us was one of great wars and conflicts. As we start this one, we need to understand the lessons of those conflicts and to learn from them for our future.

We find it most fitting that the Kosovo Commission has decided to host its final meeting and seminar here in South Africa. It is equally fitting that it chose as its focus for this seminar the lessons to be learnt form Kosovo for dealing with conflicts in regions like Africa and Asia. While we are not convinced that it is only a lack of schooling on the part of the international community that has made it so reluctant to act to halt conflicts in Africa, this disparity of treatment does desperately require attention. And the Kosovo Commission can play an important part in addressing also that issue.

It has now become so customary to point to the failure of the international community to intervene and end the genocide in Rwanda that it is almost forgotten that this relative neglect of Africa in these matters is much more general than only the Rwanda case. For example, while NATO prepared itself for action in Kosovo, Sierra Leone seemed a virtually forsaken place from an international perspective. As atrocities were carried out in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, under the aegis of an ECOMOG peacekeeping mandate, sent in troops, but the weaponry, funding, communications and intelligence promised by Western powers failed to materialise.

And even in Rwanda itself, once the genocide had ended, there was and is more that the international community could do than merely repent about its failures. The dynamics that ignited the genocide in Rwanda today continue to play a role in the conflicts in neighbouring Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

We are not suggesting that these and other African conflicts can be subjected to the same template of conflict resolution or that the actions of Kosovo can simply be transplanted to the conflicts on this continent. We in Africa and Asia must, however, envy the readiness and willingness on the part of the international community to intervene and commit resources to the reconstruction of Kosovar society.

It is therefore particularly encouraging to us to note the interest of the international community in the Burundi Peace Process to which we have been the Facilitator since the beginning of this year, building on the sterling work done by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. A number of leaders from both Africa and the broader international community have given their time to attend some of the plenary sessions of the peace process held in Arusha. On Monday 28 August we shall again have such a plenary, this time with the intention to have a peace agreement signed. Once more a number of heads of states and governments, or their representatives, will be in attendance, signalling a renewed interest of the world in the affairs of Africa.

Even more encouraging has been the indications from Western leaders of their willingness to actively assist in the rebuilding and development of the Burundi economy once a peace agreement had been reached. We shall ourselves remain actively involved in mobilising the international community for that project.

We would wish to see Burundi as a showcase of peace bringing its dividends through the actions of the international community.

We have quite often in the past made the comment that in this contemporary world of globalisation, we have indeed again become the keepers of our brother or sister. The global village cannot only be such where it concerns the accessibility and penetrability of markets; it must surely also mean that the ills and woes of one are the shared concern of all.

We speak here today to support the Kosovo Commission as potentially a powerful means of promoting and consolidating that sense of one-ness amongst ourselves. As we learn to understand that destructive part of our human condition that has caused so much pain and suffering throughout our human history, we may advance in the knowledge that we share so much - bad and good. Together, and only together, can we make of the world a better place for our children to grow up in.
I wish you well, and thank you for the opportunity of sharing with you. And thank you for thinking specifically of Africa in your deliberations.

I thank you.



The spelling of Annan was corrected from "Anan"

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 20/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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