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African leaders pledge to drive continent's progress, but say international aid is needed

African leaders pledge to drive continent's progress, but say international aid is needed

UN Assembly meets in general debate
The birth of the African Union and the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) are evidence of the continent's determination to emerge from poverty and despair, but international support is required for these initiatives to succeed, several African leaders told the General Assembly today as it resumed its high-level debate.

"Africa has never wanted to be perceived as the 'scar on the conscience of the world,'" said President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana. "We do not want to be the objects of pity and charity, and we do not want to provide the grisly images of war, disease, ignorance, famine and poverty on the world's television screens." Instead, the continent's leaders were resolved to tackle Africa's problems. "We are determined to strive for democracy and good governance, not because these are fashionable buzzwords but because we are convinced that is the path to the surest, if not always the most rapid, way to development."

He said NEPAD constitutes "a great opportunity for world leaders to move from rhetoric to purposeful action." Countries should invest in Africa not out of a sense of charity but for sound economic reasons. For their part, African States were working to nurture democracy. At the same time, these nations could not achieve "the dramatic rate of growth that is required unless there are significant injections of outside investment in our economy." In particular, he urged countries to contribute to efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is ravaging the continent.

The President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, voiced gratitude to the UN for its help in resolving the country's post-election crisis and pledged "to take all appropriate measures for a more sane and rational management of public finances and international aid." In particular, the Government would focus on economic growth and development, working in partnership with businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). "Madagascar is ready to do everything in its power to put the country back on the path of development, but we can't do this without the support of the international community in a sense that is mutually beneficial," he said.

President Ravalomanana also joined others in urging support for NEPAD. "In the next months, I intend to make Madagascar as one of the flagship countries of NEPAD, since I sincerely believe in good governance, in infrastructure development, in education, in new technologies, in [sound] energy [policies], in access to developing markets, and in the protection of the environment," he said, pledging to work with the UN and other partners in building a "new Madagascar."

Pierre Buyoya, the President of Burundi, also voiced appreciation for the role played by the UN in addressing the crisis in his country. "The Security Council has shown its solidarity with the people of Burundi in the search for peace," he said. Since the country's transitional institutions were put in place last November, the political climate in Burundi had improved significantly, but international support was still needed. Despite many reasons for hope, the challenges ahead remained serious, with violence constituting the main threat to the peace process. He stressed that the international community must press the rebels to renounce violence.

Concerning broader concerns, he welcomed the creation of the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Burundi also supported the proposal to set up a global fund to combat poverty. For Africa, NEPAD deserved the support of international financial institutions and the donor community.

The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, said the majority of conflicts plaguing the planet stemmed from extreme poverty, particularly in developing countries. In order to stop the misery in Africa, the continent had adopted NEPAD, a development plan which manifested the spirit of partnership reaffirmed at recent international conferences, including the World Food Summit in Rome and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Congo itself was facing major challenges born of the country's political transition, he said. Thanks to the determination of the Congolese people, much had been accomplished in the face of these difficulties, including the establishment of new democratic institutions. Concerning the environment, he said that Congo, along with five of its neighbours, was launching a new campaign to preserve natural resources in the Congo River Basin. That initiative should spur other regional efforts to ensure sustainable development, he said.

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Anerood Jugnauth said that in contrast to previous years "when the General Assembly listened to a litany of horror stories out of Africa, I am happy to note that there are substantial and positive developments taking place on the continent." He pointed in particular to the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Comoros and Madagascar. "The birth of the African Union heralds a new era of political, economic and social transformation for our continent," he said. "The continent is more than ever determined to shape its destiny, to tackle comprehensively the burning problems of poverty, hunger, disease and underdevelopment that have debilitated millions of Africans over the years."

The Prime Minister also called NEPAD "another chapter in the unfolding of the success story of the African continent." The initiative, he said, "commits Africa to building a strong and enduring culture of democracy, respect for human rights and accountability." He cited in particular the African Peer Review Mechanism, calling it "a credible mechanism to promote the prospects of internationally recognized norms and standards of good governance."