Address by President Nelson Mandela to the National Assembly of Mali, Bamako - Mali

2 March 1996

Your Excellency Mr President;
Honourable President of the National Assembly;
Honourable Members of the National Assembly;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here in Mali today and I would like to thank the Government and people of Mali for the very warm welcome they have extended to me.

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation at being the guest of the National Assembly of Mali. I am moved at having this opportunity to address the elected representatives of a people which, like the people of South Africa, has known the pain of being denied freedom and what it is to fight for democracy.

Since 1992 Mali and its National Assembly have stood out as examples on a continent striving for democracy. Mali also has a distinguished record as a champion of regional and African unity.

On behalf of all South Africans, I would like to thank the Government and people of Mali for their support and their contribution over the years to the struggle against apartheid.

Although this is our first official visit to Mali, we know that we are amongst long-standing friends; brothers and sisters who shared in our victory as they shared in our struggle. And it is my pleasant task to report to you that the people of South Africa are resolutely taking advantage of their freedom to address their basic needs.

Your Excellency, Honourable Members of the Assembly;

Amongst the fruits of our liberation is the opportunity at last to develop normal relations between South Africa and the other countries of Africa, including Mali.

In the short space of time since we achieved democracy, full diplomatic relations have been established between South Africa and Mali and trade between our two countries has already doubled. This is only the start and we look forward to the strengthening of all-round relations, promoted amongst other things by our present visit to Mali.

Ladies and gentlemen;

We also look forward to strengthened relations so that we can work together to address the challenges which confront Africa. Our continent's future prosperity depends on co-operation and unity between nations. In the same way that South Africa's reconstruction and development will succeed only through a partnership of all its social structures, so too is the destiny of each nation inextricably linked to that of the African continent.

Economically, the South African Government therefore seeks a rapid promotion of economic ties between South Africa and its fellow African States. Our own socio-economic development is dependent on balanced economic development, both within our Southern African region and on the continent as a whole. Only then can we fulfill our urgent responsibility of addressing the fearful poverty that blights the lives of millions of Africa's children.

The economic renewal of Africa, however, requires peace, stability and the nurturing of democratic systems of governance. Our regional and continental organisations, SADC and ECOWAS, and the Organisation of African Unity, provide frameworks through which solidarity between Africa's nations can promote these goals.

South Africa's own history has taught it what the world knows, that injustice and oppression are enemies of peace and development. We are therefore strongly committed to working together with other countries, in equal partnership, for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and for the promotion of democracy and human rights everywhere.

It is in this context that I would like to say a few words about Nigeria.

The situation in Nigeria has deeply saddened us all. I believe that it was in this spirit that the delegation of Mali, together with that of South Africa, supported the Resolution on Nigeria in the General Assembly's Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee in December last year.

I hope the Government of Nigeria will reconsider its position and receive the Special Ministerial Mission appointed by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. I do so in particular because the objective of the Special Mission is to pursue a dialogue with the Nigerian Government so that it may assist with that country's early return to civilian democratic rule.

Ladies and gentlemen; if we celebrate the strides taken in the last few years towards democratisation and civil peace in Africa, it is not to ignore the tragedies that have also occurred, such as those in Rwanda, Burundi, and Liberia.

We hope that the problems in Sierra Leone, Niger and Guinea which blight the collective image of Africa and set the continent back in her renaissance will be resolved in the best interests of Africa's people and the cause of human rights.

South Africa will continue to be closely involved in OAU efforts to reduce tension, prevent conflict and solve existing conflict situations on the continent. We believe that the OAU Central Organ for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, to which South Africa was elected in 1994, has a vital role to play in creating a stable and secure Africa.

It was for that reason that the South African Government has this past month made a further contribution to the OAU Peace Fund of approximately R1,2 million. We are further committed to vigorously supporting initiatives aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the OAU.

South Africa has also been closely involved, within the limits of its capacities, in OAU Ministerial visits to Burundi; in assisting the achievement of peace and stability in Angola by contributing the costs of quartering UNITA soldiers; and in technical assistance towards the training of demobilised soldiers in Mozambique.

Alongside the all important role which the OAU is expected to play in conflict prevention and resolution, South Africa believes that the continent's regional organisations should also have the instruments needed for them to play a meaningful role in this regard.

These sentiments were part of the founding vision of our own regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community, and during the past year we were able to witness the effectiveness of regional co-operation in resolving a potentially serious conflict situation in Lesotho.

I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my admiration, and personal support, for the strenuous and tireless efforts of the West African States, through ECOWAS and ECOMOG, to bring peace to Liberia. These endeavours are an example to all of us in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen;

In the final analysis we are talking about the resolution of these problems not as an end in itself, but because we believe that development cannot take place without democracy or prosperity without peace. The time has come for Africa to come into her own, to take her destiny into her own hands in order to better the lives of her people rather than suffer perpetual marginalisation and continue as supplicants with begging bowl in hand.

With this in mind I would like to wish the people of Mali and you, their elected representatives, encouragement and success as you proceed along the path of democracy upon which, like us, you have only recently embarked.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation