The Pan African Business Forum – a grouping of leaders of thought, business chieftains, government officials, academics and civil society leaders, with membership drawn from all around Africa and elsewhere around the globe with an interest in promoting and facilitating the continent’s political, socio-economic and cultural renaissance – has followed with growing consternation the ongoing atrocities being committed by both Israel and Hamas against each other under the guise of a military war. We are alarmed by the blunt refusal of both sides to adhere to any of the modern conventions of warfare s both sides are deliberately targeting innocent civilian populations – primarily defence less women and children, rather than military targets.
The President of PABF Dr Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, says as an organization that believes in peaceful negotiation and compromise to disputes at multilateral, regional, bilateral and communal levels alike, abhors violence of any sort as a means of settling disagreements between governments or communities. This includes even formal warfare in which the respective warring sides abide by internationally accepted codes of conduct. In the ongoing circumstances of an unrestrained war of attrition between Israel and Hamas we are observing actions by both sides that fully meet the definition of international terrorism and which must be condemned by everyone around the world in no uncertain terms.
This is without prejudice to who started the conflict and why – those factors have no meaning to the innocent, defence less families and communities who are being devastated by a war of attrition in which they have little vested interest and even less concrete stakes. These include citizens of countries and ethnicities foreign to those of the warring parties – such as thousands of Africans – and whose only error is to have been caught up in the mindless violence because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Consequently PABF is calling for an immediate and unconditional halt to all acts of violence by both sides in the ongoing conflict, pending its resolution by negotiated political settlement referred by truly impartial third parties.
To this end we call for the immediate establishment of a 10 mile demilitarized zone on ach side of the border between Israel and Gaza, thus totaling 20 miles in all. The suggested area, which would serve as a buffer zone should be placed under the direct supervision of a specially constituted United Nations peacekeeping force that would enforce compliance by both warring parties and ensure that there are no violations, whether on land sea or air space.
The UN would also be mandated to impose immediate and severe economic sanctions on any parties found to violate the terms of the ceasefire.
Dr Agbesi believes once this is in place, negotiations towards a fair and sustainable political settlement should be commenced under the supervision of the Arab League, which has the influence to reign in Hamas; the United Nations itself which has the influence to restrain Israel; and the African Union which would bring the respect of not just both warring parties but all their respective allies, as a neutral arbitrator.
We are cognizant of the extreme difficulties facing efforts to reach a universally acceptable negotiated settlement. However we strongly believe that with impartial arbitration and the goodwill of the global community, one can be reached. At the very least, the suggested process would somewhat defuse the current extremely high tensions in the area somewhat and thus end the immediate hostilities which are outside even the loosest definition of civility in warfare; thus creating a better foundation for an acceptable resolution of the underlying disputes going forward.
PABF intends to reach out to all the relevant parties with a view to implementing our recommendations, either in its original form or in a form adjusted to cater for any concerns raised by key stakeholders in the direly needed peace process, particularly from the warring parties themselves. However we are appealing strongly for the support of the entire global community towards our efforts in this regard.
The world is one and is occupied by mankind which in turn is one. We have to learn to live with each other or ultimately we will all die together.