Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security: Mercenary activities as a source of instability and destabilization in Africa 

04.02.2019 - Speech

(check against delivery)

Thank you very much Mr. President.


Congratulations on assuming the presidency of the Security Council. I wish you and your team good luck in the upcoming month. Let me also congratulate you on the initial statement and the speech that you gave and the very concrete example from your own country and how mercenaries have threatened the security of your country.

I would also like to thank the former President, the Dominican Republic for what they have accomplished in January and if I may, I would also congratulate you on your speech on mercenaries. I think the list that you gave with regard to what mercenaries was very impressive, in particular with regard to children and women and you called these acts of mercenaries barbaric.

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamet summarized in his intervention his description of mercenaries and the scourge of mercenaries. I think this is absolutely the right description and we have seen in the discussion around the table, that there is a strong unity among the member states. Everybody recognizes that there is this threat of mercenary activities to regional stability and security in Central Africa, but it is also a symptom of broader trends and conflict situations. The phenomenon of mercenaries is made worse and closely interlinked with terrorism, violent extremism, trans-national organized crime including weapons trafficking.

We are looking at the root causes. One of the main incentives to join a mercenary group is a lack of economical alternatives and opportunities, especially for young people. The lines between mercenary groups, organized crime and terrorist groups are blurred. I think we have to be honest enough to admit that the solution to the problem will not come over night. There are no easy solutions to the problems of mercenaries in Africa. This is why we have to take a more nuanced and long term approach. From Germany’s perspective, there are six potential strategies to address the problem:

First is enabling state actors and security forces. The Secretary General made a very strong point in his intervention and reminded us that there should be a monopoly of the use of force by the national government and not lie with mercenaries. We have to enable state actors and security forces to effectively provide security for the population throughout the entire territory, while respecting human rights and the dignity of the individuals. We need strong, capable security institutions, following the rule of law. We need to strengthen the security sector arrangements through the different initiatives in particular those under SDG 16, which was also highlighted by my UK colleague, by UN regional envoys and, more broadly, regional and sub-regional cooperation. Security-sector reform, capacity building and training are in our view key instruments for progress.

Second, non-proliferation and disarmament. Weapons and ammunition are the hard fuel of conflicts and their illicit flows are an important source for mercenaries. Non-proliferation and disarmament are thus important elements in the strategy to stop mercenary activities. Under the leadership of the AU and in close cooperation with Africa’s sub-regional organizations such as SADC (South African Development Community), ECOWAS or the Regional Center on Small Arms (RECSA), a “Continental Plan of Action for the control of Small Arms and Light Weapons” was developed. This plan is also part of the context of the AU’s “Silencing the Guns Initiative by 2020”. We applaud and Germany strongly supports all activities in this context and we are working with the AU to cut the flow of arms into areas of conflict, improve the control of arms and ammunition in fragile states and train a new generation of experts to take the lead in arms control. We are looking very much forward to the end of your presidency – understand me correctly – we are looking forward to the discussion on the end of your presidency on Silencing the Guns. We are looking forward to support you and support your activities of maybe a resolution to be adapted.

Third, I would like to underline the role of sanctions and expert monitoring as a concrete response to mercenaries. Sanctions, when it comes also to sanctions in the context of the United Nations. There are designation criteria related to human rights violations as an example and they can serve as basis for listing individuals involved in mercenary activities.

Fourth point is accountability. We have to ensure that human rights violations and abuses committed by mercenaries are duly investigated and that those ultimately responsible are held accountable. It is very encouraging that for instance the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire underlined the importance of punishment. The Russian colleague mentioned the importance of prosecution. We need to enhance the capacity and responsiveness of national and international criminal justice systems and national and regional human rights mechanisms. This must explicitly include instances where mercenaries act at the direction of a state.

This brings me to my fifth point, the private military and security companies. They have to be distinguished from mercenary activities and many of these companies follow legitimate objectives. But I would like to go back to Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamet who clearly said that these private military and security companies pose many challenges. We heard this by many colleagues around the table: France, Poland, UK mentioned concrete cases and we have to make sure that these private military and security companies follow legitimate objectives, we have to prevent abuse, strengthen compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. We promote transparency, the principle of the rule of law and effective regulation of the commercial military and security providers. In this context, I would like to highlight the international code of conduct and the Montreux Document whose adoption was actively supported by Germany and we encourage all states and stakeholders to align with these documents.

Sixth, we have to provide a secure space in which young people can work peacefully for their own future and thereby reducing the appeal of mercenary groups as an employer for disillusioned youths. We can build on efforts that are here the General Assembly that last year in Resolution 73/311 on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, which serves now as a good point of reference. It stresses “the importance of addressing the socioeconomic dimension of youth unemployment, as well as facilitating the enhanced participation of youth in decision-making processes”.

Lastly and in line with our strategic focus on prevention – and the president of Equatorial Guinea also mentioned the importance of prevention – we must address the conditions conducive to mercenarism in the Central African region and beyond. These are the challenges for the humanitarian situation, high numbers of displaced people, the surge of terrorist activities, and the devastating effects of climate change on the livelihoods of millions, only to name a few of the root causes.

To conclude: The topic of mercenaries serves as a very good example for the urgent need of this Security Council to move towards a more thematic, preventive and cross-cutting discussion of threats to international peace and security. The root causes of violence and conflict deserve the focused attention of this Council, and we remain committed to their representation on the agenda.


Thank you very much Mr. President.

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