AU applauds SA Military Ombud for oversight of armed forces in Africa
7th SA Military Ombud Annual Symposium facilitates discussion on armed forces
The African Union (AU) has applauded the South African Military Ombud for its commitment to hosting and facilitating discussion and advocacy on good practices regarding oversight of armed forces in Africa.
Delivering a keynote address at the 7th SA Military Ombud Annual Symposium at Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni on April 26, Maj-Gen Trust Mugoba, the AU chief of staff of the African Standby Force, reiterated the AU and South African Military Ombudsman’s common interest in the oversight of armed forces on the continent.
Mugoba said they were committed to working together to design and implement defence and security oversight in line with the AU's Agenda 2063 Principles.
The symposium emphasised oversight of the intelligence services and reform of the ombudsman’s mandates — particularly institutional independence and direct accountability to parliament, among other key issues.
It was attended by a number of academics and experts who shared their views.
Mugoba told delegates that the armed forces had to understand civilian control to ensure that democratic control and oversight mechanisms were enhanced. “Therefore, the role of oversight over the armed forces is at the core of the AU Peace and Security Architecture and is firmly grounded in Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU.”
The act emphasises respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance, promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development, and the condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes of governments, among others, he said.
Mugoba said the AU Assembly adopted a solemn declaration at its 50th anniversary not to bequeath an “Africa of conflicts” to younger generations. It also set the objective of “Silencing the guns in Africa by 2020”.
During the panel discussion, Lesotho defence ministry and national security advocate Tseliso Mokoko said SA's neighbour had much to learn from its counterparts. “We want to learn the mandate from this office [of the South African Military Ombud].”
Maj-Gen EZ Mnisi, adjudicator-general of the South African National Defence Force, called for the proper training of soldiers, who should not be sent to conflicts to die.
Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, who was one of the panellists, said: “The creation of one single national defence force acting within the constraints of the chapter on fundamental rights was built into the interim constitution.”
Other panellists included Vasu Gounden, executive director at the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes, and Dr Ishmael Theletsane, chairperson of the School for Defence Organisation and Resource Management at Stellenbosch University.
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This article was paid for by the South African Military Ombud.