JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (PANA)–Experts on the Common African Defense and Security Policy Committee of the African Union (AU) started their first meeting in Johannesburg March 27 to develop a continental defense policy intended to address Africa’s calamities and conflicts.

The establishment of a continental defense policy was agreed at the July 2002 Heads of State Summit in Durban, South Africa. Addressing the meeting, South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma noted that it has taken 40 years to implement the concept first muted at the founding conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as proposed by the late leader of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah.

She said the establishment of the AU has given Africa new opportunities to examine the security situation of the continent, saying that the founding law of the AU, the Constitutive Act, has already defined conditions under which a collective response is required.


Ms. Zuma said the decision taken by the leaders was very correct and timely since as small and weak states the only hope for survival is in multi-lateralism. The minister, who observed that the post-cold war era had not ushered in a period of security, democracy, stability and development, said the continent has entered a phase of internal conflicts and fights for control of natural resources.

It seems we are facing a danger of a weakening if not destruction of the UN, she said.

“The centrality of the UN is more important than ever before. As a continent, which is the cradle of humanity, bound together by geography, history and our cultural heritage, our destiny is inseparable. We have to defend ourselves and our continent,” said Ms. Zuma.

She urged the meeting to take cognizance of instruments already in existence, stressing that as individual member-states, they have obligations towards UN agreements and those agreements and treaties concluded under the auspices of the OAU as well as regional commitments.

Ms. Zuma challenged participants to go beyond the traditional definitions of defense and security and build a basis for future co-operation by sharing intelligence, establishing centers of excellence for training and through these means build trust and confidence.

The continental defense policy drafted at the three-day meeting will be presented at the Extra-Ordinary Executive Council Session scheduled for May.