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South Africa’s progress may show the way for all developing countries: Annan

South Africa’s progress may show the way for all developing countries: Annan

Saying that South Africa shows that a nation “need not be imprisoned by its history,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today praised the country for its internal policies and development, and said its success in relating to the wider world may be the best model for the entire developing world.

Mr. Annan made his remarks in an address to a joint sitting of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, where he is visiting as part of a two-week official trip to Africa that began yesterday.

“Your robust economy, stable democracy, support for the rule of law and – perhaps most important – your fully inclusive constitution have made South Africa a beacon of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and mutual respect between people of different races, languages and traditions,” the Secretary-General said.

“Today, the kind of things South Africa is doing at home, and promoting on the wider African scene, may show us the best way for developing countries in general to respond to today's world.”

Mr. Annan highlighted South Africa’s economic progress, which now sees it as the biggest foreign investor in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and he also said the country “reminds us all of the remarkable African capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation, despite the pain of racial discrimination and oppression.”

Noting that South Africa currently chairs the Group of 77, a coalition of 132 developing States, the Secretary-General also praised the country’s regional role in the rest of Africa, particularly President Thabo Mbeki’s “key peacekeeping role in Côte d’Ivoire”, and joint efforts in Sudan and elsewhere.

Mr. Annan hailed South Africa’s “vitally important peacemaking and peacekeeping contributions” in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“This is very important, because no country today can be unaffected by events in its neighbourhood, and it is the responsibility of the stronger countries in each neighbourhood to lend a hand to the weaker, without seeking to impose their domination,” Mr. Annan said.

He went on to praise South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as giving the world “an idea, and a mechanism,” which many other countries have used, or are now using, to confront an ugly national past.

“You have shown that a nation need not be imprisoned by its history; that even people whose communities have been in bitter conflict, and have endured or committed the worst injustice, can work together to build a common future,” Mr. Annan said.

“I believe this example can serve not only other individual nations, but also the world as a whole, which today is seething with resentment based on past and present injustice, and with misunderstandings based on differences of culture and belief.”

Also today, the Secretary-General met with President Mbeki, telling reporters afterwards he had thanked the South African leader for the Government’s contributions internationally.

Asked whether he would travel to Zimbabwe, Mr. Annan said he intended to do so and is discussing a possible trip with the authorities, although it wouldn’t take place now.

The Secretary-General added that “we all need to work with Zimbabwe to resolve the current difficulties and restore it to the position that it ought to occupy.”

In the afternoon, the Secretary-General accompanied his wife, Nane, on a visit to a centre offering 24-hour services for women and children rape victims. The centre, which provides care, treatment, counselling, shelter referrals and legal assistance, is linked to a specialized sexual offences court which seeks to bring offenders to justice, where the convictions rate for perpetrators was reported to be more than 90 per cent.