The use of mercenaries constitutes a threat to peace and security in Africa [fr]
Mercenary activities as a source of insecurity and destabilization in Africa
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 4 February 2019
I should like at the outset, on behalf of my authorities, to warmly thank you, Sir, for having organized this debate and for your presence among us. I also offer you our best wishes for your success in Equatorial Guinea’s presidency of the Security Council this month.
I thank the Secretary-General, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda for their very enlightening briefings. I also welcome the presence among us of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Regional Integration of Gabon.
I further wish a happy new year to our Chinese colleagues.
The phenomenon of the use of mercenaries constitutes a real threat to the peace and security of the African continent and of all the other regions of the world where it is developing. Mercenary activity is a multiplier of instability, upon which it feeds and which it then increases. As foreign nationals and non-members of regular armed forces who are recruited in return for financial or material remuneration to participate directly in armed conflicts, mercenaries are not constrained by borders and thrive on the instability and fragility of States. We have seen that phenomenon in the past, particularly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire in the early 2000s. We continue to see it today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Central African Republic and in the Sudan. The impact of mercenaries’ activities is well known. What first comes to mind is their destabilization of States and undermining of constitutional order. We must also consider their involvement in the illicit trafficking of arms and natural resources. Finally, and above all, we must address their multiple violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in such forms as sexual and gender-based violence, torture, forced displacement and the recruitment of child soldiers. Those violations were documented in the latest report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (see A/73/303).
I would also like to raise the issue of private security and military companies. The latter must of course be distinguished from the phenomenon of mercenarism, since their activities are subject to international regulation, as embodied, for example, in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and the Montreux Document. We must, however, remain vigilant to ensure that those private companies do not carry out destabilizing activities in the countries in which they are deployed.
Given that observation, the question arises as to how to curb the phenomenon of mercenarism. The first line of response is prevention. While mercenaries fuel conflicts, they are also a symptom of the root causes of the instability and fragility of certain States. In that regard, strengthening the rule of law — in particular improving governance and combating corruption — investing in educating young people, combating climate change and developing cross-border cooperation are all factors that, by their very nature, can address those root causes of conflict. Accordingly, we welcome the efforts of the African Union (AU), African subregional organizations and the States members of the AU through the implementation of the Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, which we fully support. We also commend all the work undertaken to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the measures taken to combat the proliferation of, and illicit trade in, small arms and light weapons, such as the 2010 adoption of the Kinshasa Convention at the level of the Economic Community of Central African States.
The second part of the solution lies in dealing with the phenomenon of mercenarism in and of itself. The first step involves providing a security response, such as through the robust action of certain peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic and the Intervention Brigade of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such a security response is also predicated upon the action of African peace support operations — whose development and predictable and sustainable financing we fully support — and the activation or reactivation of joint bilateral commissions of a number of States.
The security response is clearly only a first step to addressing the phenomenon of mercenarism. The response must also be political. In countries in which mercenary groups are active, political processes must consider foreign combatants as an integral part of any strategy to dismantle armed groups. In that regard, the implementation of demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and repatriation programmes for former members of armed groups who are engaged in a peace process is often a necessary condition for the return to peace and national reconciliation. Moreover, with regard to demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and repatriation programmes, the issue of the fate of child soldiers is key to ensuring their demobilization and possible repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to preventing their re-recruitment. Lastly, the issue of submitting foreign combatants to the judicial system should also be a part of the equation, whether through ordinary or special tribunals or the International Criminal Court.
Given the threat posed by mercenary activities, only close international cooperation among States, regional organizations and the United Nations will enable us to act effectively. Rest assured of France’s commitment to this struggle.