Mbeki warns Africa Forum that countries that have won peace can revert to conflict

African leaders must ensure that countries that have attained peace after conflict do not "slip back" into violence, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

African leaders must ensure that countries that have attained peace after conflict do not "slip back" into violence, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

"In many instances, as we deal with matters of peace and stability on the continent, we don't go all the way to ensure that countries in conflict don't revert back to conflict," Mbeki said.

He was speaking to African leaders at the Africa Forum's second general assembly in Johannesburg.

The theme of the forum is the mobilisation of international support for post-conflict reconstruction in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast.

The South African president said problems in post-conflict countries did not necessarily end when the guns stopped firing and peacekeeping troops were deployed.

"Certainly, the guns have stopped firing, but how stable is the country? Even currently, reflecting on the Sudan, an agreement was signed between the north and south. The guns are silent, peace has been achieved, but has peace really been achieved?"

He said the signing of a peace agreement in Sudan did not guarantee peace.

"After a very long period of conflict between the Arab and Muslim section of Sudan and between the Arab and African non-Muslim section, is it possible that simply because an agreement has been signed that conditions exist that guarantee lasting peace, that there will be peace?"

He said the Africa Forum had a difficult but necessary task: it had to tell leaders of African states the truth about themselves, about their countries and about the continent.

Feedback was important because many parties involved in conflict resolution said "goodbye" once the guns stopped firing.

"You have to be advocates to see that we guarantee peace in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Comores and other African countries."

He said problems in post-conflict countries were not over when a cease-fire was agreed on, when peace-keeping troops were deployed or when democratic elections were held.

"There is a need for this forum to go beyond those elections to say what has caused the conflict in the first place."

The Africa Forum is chaired by the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano.

Twenty former African heads of state and government are expected to attend the forum, which ends on Thursday. - Sapa

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