Annan blasts use of gender-based violence as weapon in Africa’s wars

7 July 2004
AIDS orphan

Underscoring the vital importance of Africa’s women for economic development, fighting HIV/AIDS and achieving peace, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has lambasted the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war in the continent’s conflicts.

“Every effort must be made to halt this odious practice, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mr. Annan told an African Union (AU) Session on Gender in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday, noting that such violence had reached “almost epidemic proportions” in parts the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in the Darfur region of Sudan.

“I urge African States to do everything they can to translate into reality the objectives of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security – and to do so without delay,” he declared, referring to the October 2000 resolution aimed at enhancing the role of women in preventing conflict, promoting peace and assisting in post-conflict reconstruction within UN operations.

Mr. Annan noted that in the past year alone, Africa's women “have made great strides forward” and he congratulated the AU on electing five women out of a total of 10 commissioners.

“Increasingly, Africans understand that their continent cannot develop unless its women exercise real power – in the home, in the local community, in the nation, and in the Union itself,” he added.

Stressing the “devastating obstacle to development” posed by HIV/AIDS and its “increasing and terrifying toll on Africa's women,” he underlined the indispensable part they had to play in all aspects of the struggle against the disease.

“No less important is recognition of the role of women in the work for peace and security,” he declared. “Time and again, women have played a constructive and essential part in peace processes.

“They are gradually finding a place at the negotiating table, in the implementation of peace agreements, in post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and disarmament,” he added. “It is high time they were included in those processes in a more formalized way, at all levels and at all stages.”


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