Annan welcomes appointment of Amara Essy as new OAU leader

Annan welcomes appointment of Amara Essy as new OAU leader

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed today the appointment of a top African diplomat, Amara Essy of Côte d'Ivoire, as the next head of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which is holding its annual summit in Lusaka, Zambia.

"Mr. Essy brings to the OAU his extensive regional and international diplomatic experience. He facilitated the peaceful resolution of many conflicts in Africa," Mr. Annan said in a statement released in Lusaka, where he is attending the OAU forum. "We look forward to close collaboration with him in addressing issues affecting the African region."

The Secretary-General noted that as President of the 49th session of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Essy was known as "an effective leader and consensus builder," and that he had contributed to the resolution of the political crisis in the region when he served last year as Mr. Annan's Special Envoy to the Central African Republic.

Mr. Annan also praised the out-going OAU Secretary-General, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, for his efforts to transform the organization during the 12 years of his tenure.

"Under his dynamic leadership, the OAU has become a bastion of African solidarity and undertaken efforts to address the problems and crises that have plagued the region," Mr. Annan said. He stressed that under Mr. Salim's stewardship, the OAU had played a central role in the management of many conflicts in Africa, including those in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Comoros.

In Lusaka today, Mr. Annan held meetings with the Presidents of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Libya, Burundi and Burkina Faso, as well as the Foreign Minister of Tunisia. In the afternoon, he met with Zambian President Fredrick Chiluba, and was scheduled to meet with the leaders of Togo and South Africa.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, who is also attending the OAU Summit, has urged African leaders to continue seeking solutions for the continent's many refugee crises.

During his meetings in Lusaka, the High Commissioner called for a greater effort to resolve Africa's refugee-producing conflicts and urged Africa's leaders to allow local integration of those refugees who cannot go home.

In a donors' meeting, Mr. Lubbers praised Zambia's hospitality towards refugees and the country's willingness to provide land for those who wanted to settle there.