With African Union set to replace OAU, Annan sees hope, challenges ahead

8 July 2002
Kofi Annan

Addressing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the eve of its transformation into the African Union, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the continent's advance towards further integration but cautioned that success would require further effort.

Addressing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the eve of its transformation into the African Union, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the continent's advance towards further integration but cautioned that success would require further effort.

"The fact that you can proclaim the birth of the African Union tomorrow is… an occasion to celebrate and, more important, an occasion for hope," Mr. Annan told the OAU's final summit meeting, held in Durban, South Africa.

The Secretary-General said the concept of a Union was "noble and inspiring," and pointed out that other regions, notably Europe, had demonstrated the practical benefits of joining forces. "But," he added, "let us not risk jeopardizing what we have already achieved, and let us not imagine that, once proclaimed, our Union will become a reality without further effort."

Recalling the difficulties that the European Union had encountered, Mr. Annan said a successful African Union would require "great stamina and iron political will, combined with the readiness to accept seeming endless series of negotiations and compromises."

Africa, he noted, faced many difficulties, including "economies [that] are saddled with unsustainable debt, or crippled by the legacy of wars in which, over generations, outside powers exploited and prolonged African quarrels." At the same time, he underscored the continent's many resources, such as customs that value democracy based on consensus. "Our traditions teach us to respect each other; to share power; to give every man his say, and every woman hers," said Mr. Annan, whose home country is Ghana.

He called on the attending leaders to build "a Union that will last" and urged them to resolve - not just manage - the conflicts "that disfigure our continent."

Looking ahead at next month's World Summit on Sustainable Development, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mr. Annan said the conference would have to trace a path for the future. "Let us apply ourselves, as Africans, to persuading the rest of the world to join us next month and start implementing the measures we all know are needed if development is to be truly sustainable," he said.

Before addressing the summit earlier today, Mr. Annan met separately with Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and Farouk Kaddoumi, Representative of Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat, according to a UN spokeswoman.

On the sidelines of the Durban summit, Mr. Annan also had a number of back-to-back meetings scheduled with African leaders.

After arriving in South Africa on Sunday morning, he had a one-on-one meeting with the country’s President, Thabo Mbeki. He also held talks with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.

 

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