SA aims to be ‘moral’ su­per­power

Am­bas­sador Ra­sool says the big­gest achieve­ment at the Wash­ing­ton sum­mit was an agree­ment on peace and se­cu­rity

CityPress - - News - CARIEN DU PLESSIS carien.duplessis@city­ Du Plessis’ trip was partly paid for by the US em­bassy in Pre­to­ria

South Africa can be­come “a moral su­per­power” and help man­age con­flicts in the way Nel­son Man­dela did, South Africa’s am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, DC, Ebrahim Ra­sool, has said.

Ra­sool spoke to City Press af­ter the US-Africa Lead­ers Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton this week, where US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama pledged $110 mil­lion (R1.2 bil­lion) a year for the next three to five years to help African coun­tries es­tab­lish rapidresponse peace­keep­ing forces.

Ra­sool said the agree­ment on peace and se­cu­rity was the sum­mit’s big­gest achieve­ment.

“The coup – if I can use an un­for­tu­nate word – of the sum­mit is the ad­mis­sion by the Amer­i­cans that they would rather fight in an African standby force than send in its own troops,” he said.

The African Union (AU) is plan­ning to es­tab­lish an African Standby Force (ASF), but so far ef­forts have been ham­strung by pol­i­tics and a lack of re­sources.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma last year started ad­vo­cat­ing for an in­terim rapid-re­sponse force, the African Ca­pac­ity for Im­me­di­ate Re­sponse to Crises.

South Africa’s de­fence force will be on standby first, from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber.

Obama made no spe­cific men­tion about help­ing South Africa, but it is un­der­stood that the US Africa Com­mand (Africom) could as­sist with equip­ment and trans­port.

Ra­sool said the ASF should not be­come a “proxy for Africom”, but rather be “the in­car­na­tion of the Man­de­laesque way of re­solv­ing things with the back-up of the tech­nol­ogy and the strate­gic in­ter­ven­tion and the fi­nances” that the US has to of­fer.

He said the US was in tran­si­tion be­cause “it does not have the re­sources for mil­i­tarism as its de­fault po­si­tion any more”. The coun­try is $16 tril­lion in debt.

He said South Africa would like to see the US move from “the usual mil­i­tarism to the Man­de­laesque man­age­ment of con­flict”, which drives “en­gage­ment, di­a­logue, ne­go­ti­a­tion, con­flict res­o­lu­tion, etcetera”.

“I don’t think South Africans have re­alised how well poised we are to be­come a moral su­per­power.”

Ra­sool said the trend in the US was to “man­age mil­i­tarism with­out war” by es­tab­lish­ing “cul­ture-spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions”. The coun­try was also try­ing to use tech­nol­ogy, like drones, to fight war “with­out body bags”, he said.

Africom has been con­tro­ver­sial be­cause many African coun­tries fear it will be­come a mag­net for ex­trem­ists. The com­mand has been forced to es­tab­lish its head­quar­ters in Stuttgart, Ger­many, in­stead of on the con­ti­nent.

Ra­sool, how­ever, warned that the Africans would have to man­age the re­la­tion­ship. “It is still go­ing to be a chess game be­cause the US would still want the ASF to be a fight­ing force, but as a proxy of Africom. I think Africa needs to say ‘we want an ASF, we want African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems, but please en­sure that the strate­gic backup is there for us’.” Obama told jour­nal­ists on Wed­nes­day the US had no de­sire to cre­ate “a big foot­print” in Africa, but would rather part­ner with coun­tries to deal with prob­lems. “We will sup­port the African Union’s ef­forts to strengthen its peace­keep­ing in­sti­tu­tions,” Obama said. “We’re launch­ing a new African peace keep­ing rapid-re­sponse part­ner­ship with the goal of quickly de­ploy­ing African peace keep­ers in sup­port of UN or AU mis­sions,” he said.

He said the US would sup­port coun­tries like Ghana, Sene­gal, Rwanda, Tan­za­nia, Ethiopia and Uganda, and would “in­vite coun­tries be­yond Africa to join us in this ef­fort”. Zuma on Mon­day said South Africa wanted to see “African-led so­lu­tions to African prob­lems”. This was a change in em­pha­sis from the “African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems” he told African lead­ers to find last year at a meet­ing in Pre­to­ria about the African Ca­pac­ity for Im­me­di­ate Re­sponse to Crises.

Zuma also said South Africa had “an ex­am­ple in our own ex­pe­ri­ence that we can of­fer to do some­thing” about the cur­rent con­flict in Gaza.

He said: “We came from a con­flict that no­body thought would ever be solved– in­sti­tu­tion­alised racism in South Africa.”

Fol­low­ing the sum­mit, Obama an­nounced $37 bil­lion worth of in­vest­ments in Africa from the US govern­ment, busi­ness and non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions. He also said he would urge his suc­ces­sor to con­tinue host­ing sim­i­lar sum­mits.

Agent Smith: There is another or­gan­ism on this planet that fol­lows the same pat­tern [as hu­mans]. Do you know what it is? A virus

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