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Annan attends inaugural session of African Union, holds talks with continent's leaders

Annan attends inaugural session of African Union, holds talks with continent's leaders

Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today attended the inaugural session of the African Union, whose creation to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU) he has hailed as a historic occasion for celebration and hope.

Mr. Annan, who had addressed the OAU final summit in Durban, South Africa, yesterday, was among dozens of African leaders and thousands of people participating in a three-hour extravaganza held at a stadium to mark the birth of the African Union. The festivities included a flyover, parachute landings, performances by Zulu dancers in traditional dress carrying spears and shields, and the launch of the Union's theme song - called "Unity Afrika."

According to a UN spokesperson, the Secretary-General watched as the presidents of the African Union walked into the stadium behind their national flags and heard the crowd give a huge welcome to former South African President Nelson Mandela. The crowd, which waved miniature flags of the member States, also cheered when the Senegalese and South African soccer teams were brought in.

Afterwards, Mr. Annan met with Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa before holding talks with the presidents of Djibouti, Togo, Nigeria, Somalia and Equatorial Guinea, as well as with the Prime Minister of Guinea and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, spokesperson Hua Jiang said.

The Secretary-General's programme on Tuesday included a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to Ms. Jiang.