Ban Ki-Moon to arrive in SA this evening

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pretoria - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to touch down in South Africa on Tuesday evening for the first leg of his tour of African countries.

During his Africa tour Mr Ban is to visit South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania and Egypt.

He is expected to meet President Kgalema Motlanthe as well as the Ministers of Finance and Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Trevor Manuel and Marthinus van Schalkwyk on Wednesday to discuss developments in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, the DRC, Sudan, and Somalia.

The situation in the Middle East, the global financial crisis, climate change, reform of the UN system, as well as the Durban Review Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Related intolerances will also be high on the agenda during the meeting.

According to Mr Ban's spokesperson Marie Okabe, he will also try meet with former President Nelson Mandela while in the country. It is his first official visit to South Africa.

Senior Research Fellow with the Africa Security Analysis Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Dr Wafula Okumu told BuaNews Mr Ban would want to make sure the general elections in April would remain peaceful.

"The UN is concerned about the upcoming elections in South Africa and the secretary general wants to urge the principal players to conduct the elections in such a way that a situation similar to what happened in Kenya does not develop."

Meanwhile, President Motlanthe might use Mr Ban's visit to urge the secretary general to put pressure on the Unites States and the European Union (EU) to drop sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Dr Wafula highlighted that while a number of concrete steps have been taken in Zimbabwe driving the new unity government in the right direction, what is needed from the international community is support for the process.

Mr Ban is to meet with President Joseph Kabila while visiting the DRC before travelling to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, to visit Panzi Hospital where victims of sexual violence are being rehabilitated and cared for.

He will also travel to the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma, where meetings will take place with members of the UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC (MONUC). Then he will visit the Mugunga camp for displaced people before flying to Rwanda to meet with President Paul Kagame.

With regard to the situation in the DRC, Dr Wafula said indications were positive at the moment with the withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan troops from eastern DRC, but what remained worrying was the ineffectiveness of the DRC government to secure the eastern province.

A bigger MONUC force with a stronger mandate was necessary, Dr Wafula said, adding that the 17 000 peacekeepers currently stationed in the DRC were very spread out.

The secretary-general's meeting with the Rwandan president is significant, Dr Wafula explained, there will never be a lasting solution to conflicts in the DRC without Rwanda's support.

Rwanda is also a contributor to the UN/African Union hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur at present, and is also chair of the East African Community (EAC).

Mr Ban's final destination is Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to participate in the International Conference in support of the Palestinian Economy, for the reconstruction of Gaza on 2 March 2009, which is co-chaired by Egypt and Norway.

Dr Wafula believes Egypt is a significant stop over point for Mr Ban as Egypt has also recently announced it will be sending 1 300 troops to bolster peacekeeping in Darfur.

Egypt is the lead country in trying to secure peace between Gaza and Israel. The closing of Egypt's borders to Gaza has blocked much needed humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza, and this issue will also surely be on Mr Ban's agenda, Dr Wafula said.