Arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, today to attend the closing stages of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on African leaders to act in their own backyards to prevent conflicts in one country from becoming a crisis for the whole region.
“Unless we resolve these conflicts it is going to be very difficult for us to focus on the essential issue of social and economic development,” he said at a ceremony at State House where Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki made him a knight of the Order of the Golden Heart. “Nobody invests in a bad neighbourhood and there are people in the broader world who see Africa as a continent in crisis, a continent in conflict.”
He noted that when governments try to advise their neighbours to adopt the right policies and respect the rights of their people, they are told they should not interfere in internal affairs.
“And we ourselves – I know, Mr. President, I’m not revealing any secrets – African Presidents tend to be reticent in interfering in internal affairs of others,” he declared. “But these problems, these crises, whether it is in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, they don't remain internal for very long.
“It becomes sooner or later a problem for the whole region. It throws up refugees, guns move into the region destabilizing societies and so, as I leave [after 10 years as UN Secretary-General], I hope the African leaders will see a problem of their neighbour as theirs and intervene sooner rather than later, intervene before it becomes a regional problem,” he added.
Citing Africa’s many problems, including HIV/AIDS, high unemployment and food insecurity, he stressed that it is the only continent that did not go through the green revolution or cannot feed itself. “As we move on, things are going to be much, much more difficult, so we need to really begin to focus on the essential area of agriculture which also creates lots of employment for the rural population,” he said.
Mr. Annan, who is to address the Climate Change Conference’s high-level segment tomorrow when he is expected call for urgent action on the issue, arrived from Istanbul, where he accepted the report of the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative he launched last year to tackle fear and suspicion between communities following a proposal by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey.