UN calls for leadership and united effort to rebuild Africa

Jul 10, 2001 02:00 AM

UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan told African leaders they needed courage and leadership to rebuild the continent, a task he compared to Europe's reconstruction after the devastation of the two world wars. In the text of a speech for the opening session of the last Organization of African Unity summit, Annan urged the continent's leaders to shake off their deep divisions and work together to solve the poverty, wars and health crises that plague the continent.
The three-day summit signals the end of the 38-year-old OAU and the beginning of a yearlong transition into the African Union, envisioned as a far stronger and closer-knit body. Plans for the union, loosely modelled on the European Union, include an African central bank, a court of justice, a single currency and a parliament.
The transition will challenge all African leaders, Annan said. "This historic effort will require leadership, courage and a willingness to depart from the ways of the past, if it is to do for African what the European Union has done for Europe," Annan said in his prepared text. "That, Excellencies, should be our aim -- to rebuild, as Europe did, after a series of devastating wars, uniting across old divisions to build a continent characterized by peace, cooperation, economic progress and the rule of law."

To reach that goal, Africa needs to overcome huge obstacles, including the AIDS pandemic and mass poverty, Annan said. Africa also "must reject the ways of the past, and commit itself to building a future of democratic governance subject to the rule of law," Annan said. "Such a future is within our reach, I am convinced. But only on one condition: That we end Africa's conflicts, without which no amount of aid or trade, assistance or advice, will make the difference," he said.
OAU Secretary-general Salim Ahmed Salim said the African Union would create "an enhanced form of cooperation and integration" necessary to meet the new challenges of a changing continent and a changing world. "This should be a turningpoint for our continent and our people," Salim said. However, he warned that commitment was meaningless without action.
The African Union would require far more funding and resources than the OAU had, and it remained unclear how that money was to be raised. Many analysts questioned whether the new body would ever reach the lofty goals set out in its charter. The leaders of six African nations met with Annan and UNAids head Peter Piot to discuss efforts to fight the Aids pandemic racing across Africa and to officially launch the Leadership Aids Watch for Africa.

The group comprised Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi and Botswanean President Festus Mogae. The more than 40 leaders at the summit were also expected to discuss merging two plans for creating a prosperous Africa.
They also planned to discuss efforts to resolve several conflicts on the continent, including the wars in Congo and Burundi. Former President Nelson Mandela briefed leaders on his efforts to foster peace in Burundi, and he told he would soon announce a breakthrough in the deadlocked peace talks.

Source: Sapa-AP
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