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Annan calls on Africans to focus on democracy, development and integration

Annan calls on Africans to focus on democracy, development and integration

Pres. Konare of AU; Pres. Kibaki of Kenya, Pres. Kikwete of Tanzania
Welcoming a major new treaty that seeks to bring peace to Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region, which has witnessed some of the world’s bloodiest wars, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the country’s leaders to focus not only on ending conflict but also on democracy, economic development, regional integration and humanitarian issues.

“The Pact on Security, Stability and Development that you will adopt is notable in that it not only addresses issues related to peace and security, but also gives equal importance to democracy, good governance, economic development, regional integration and humanitarian issues,” Mr. Annan said in a statement read out by his Special Adviser on Africa, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, at the start of a two-day summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Today’s meeting, the second summit of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, is the largest ever gathering of African leaders at the UN Office in Nairobi, and involves six Heads of State and one Head of Government, representing Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya.

“Ownership of the process by the core countries themselves remains the key factor. It is you who have defined priorities… I also urge you to give equal importance to all four themes of the International Conference. Peace and security will not be consolidated unless we also address the other three major areas identified by the core countries: democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration, and humanitarian and social issues,” Mr. Annan said.

He also praised the African leaders for progress made so far, citing in particular elections in Burundi and the DRC, but noted that “many challenges lie ahead” and called for international donors to “stay engaged” in the region and for the countries themselves to quickly establish a Regional Follow-up Mechanism.

“It will be vital for the people of the core countries to see the dividends of peace as soon as possible. The Pact is not just a vision; it is a programme of action. Millions of people – women, youth, refugees, displaced persons and others – are watching you and watching us, and are awaiting concrete benefits,” Mr. Annan said.

The conference, which is being held under the auspices of the UN and the African Union, is chaired by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, who voiced optimism in his opening remarks about the region’s potential for development.

“God richly endowed our region, not only with the natural resources of her hard working people, but also with the produce of our land. Carefully harnessed, prudently tapped and intelligently conserved, these resources can ensure the prosperity of our continent for generations to come.”

This theme was echoed by Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, who also stressed the importance of the pact, which is expected to be signed tomorrow, while also acknowledging that work was still needed to see the process through.

“The signing of a peace Pact that is expected to crown this Summit will herald a new beginning for the Great Lakes region and indeed for the African continent in translating aspirations into actual deeds.

“I believe it is very possible to bring to a close the very sad chapter in the history of our region. A chapter characterized by conflicts, insecurity, political instability and missed economic opportunities. Good things are now happening. We should seize the moment and rise to the occasion,” he said.

Millions of people in the Great Lakes region have been killed over the last 20 years, through brutal conflict, hunger and disease, and millions more refugees and returnees still languish in camps needing food aid, as the impoverished region strives to rebuild.

For example, the DRC with UN assistance, recently completed nationwide elections to complete its transition from the most lethal fighting in the world since World War II – a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives from combat, hunger and disease. Factional clashes have remained a problem since the end of the war, especially in the east.

Further, Rwanda is still rebuilding from the tragedy of the 1994 genocide, when Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.