The United Nations should expedite its planning for the deployment of a peacekeeping force to replace the existing African Union-led mission in Somalia, given the scale of the troubles faced by the African country, Ghana's President John Kufuor told the General Assembly today.
Speaking before world leaders at the annual high-level general debate, President Kufuor said that while the AU's efforts to bring peace to Somalia deserve commendation, “it cannot be overemphasized that the enormity of the challenges in Somalia go well beyond the capacity of the AU and requires the concerted support of the UN.”
Last month the Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the AU-led mission (known as AMISOM) by six months to February next year, and asked the UN to consult with the AU on what further support – financial, logistical or technical – it could provide to the mission.
President Kufuor today urged the UN to consider seriously that request and to allow AU members such as Ghana, which have pledged to contribute troops, to do so.
He also called on the world body to expedite its contingency planning for a UN replacement force once AMISOM's mandate expires in February.
Somalia has been riven by factional fighting and has had no functioning central government since Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.
The Ghanaian President said that while a resolution to the crisis in Somalia, as well as to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict and the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire are imperative, just as much attention should be spent on consolidating peace in countries emerging from conflict – such as Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It was vital to tackle “the root causes of these conflicts, including good governance, respect for the rule of law and human rights” to avoid relapses into violence, he said.
On the economic front, President Kufuor noted that African countries in recent years are posting increasingly impressive rates of growth in their gross domestic product (GDP).
“Africa, contrary to some misconceptions in certain quarters, is not a lost case or cause,” he said, with better macro-management of economies and greater foreign investment.
But he warned world leaders not to be complacent, adding that the income gap between rich and poor nations is widening.
President Kufuor forecast that many African States will not achieve the internationally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which fall due in 2015, unless wealthy countries change global trade rules and honour their commitments to increase official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries.
Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika focused his address on his country's efforts to meet the MDGs, saying there had been steady progress so far and he was confident that most of the eight targets would be met or surpassed by 2015.
The percentage of people living below the poverty line, for example, has fallen from almost 54 per cent in 1998 to 45 per cent last year, he said. Malawi also has a food surplus of at least 1.4 million tons more than its own requirements, allowing it to export food to other southern African nations.
President Mutharika said Malawi had identified six “priorities within priorities” that it believed could pull the country out of the poverty trap: agricultural development and food security, irrigation and water development, transport and communication infrastructure development, energy and power, integrated rural development and the management and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Improving governance was also critical, he said, citing the need to fight corruption, reform the public and private sectors, safeguard human rights and the rule of law and increase social protection for vulnerable groups.
The President of Senegal announced his country's intention to contribute to the new hybrid force that will be deployed by the UN and the African Union in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan.
Abdoulaye Wade argued in favour of having Africa represented among the permanent members of the Security Council, noting that it is the only continent that at present is not, despite the fact that the large majority of the body's agenda is focused on countries there.
Africa, he said, “is not poor, it has been made poor by a policy that exploited it.” Trade measures would not suffice to end the injustice that has been done; economic measures were also required, he said.
Looking to the summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to be held next March in Senegal, he voiced hope that it would foster progress in achieving peace.
Advocating an Islamic-Christian dialogue, he said, “If the leaders of the world meet together and make a real appeal for tolerance for present and future generations, then we will have taken a step forward towards understanding of different religions, which is essential to peace.”
Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos told the Assembly that while Islam can peacefully co-exist in societies with other religious beliefs, “it is necessary to neutralize fanaticism and prevent the Islamization of the State, which is contrary to humanity’s modern legal concept of a secular State.”
Mr. dos Santos stressed the importance of defending cultural diversity and protecting the “values and privileges of the universal culture that are consecrated in conventions, charters and international treaties.”
Ecumenism and dialogue among cultures are avenues for action that can be used for the purposes of bringing together, in peace and solidarity, the dominant religions and all the people of the world, he said.
The President also noted that, “in spite of criticism and of some known failures, the UN remains the only institution at the international level with the prestige and credibility for the resolution of inter-State conflicts and crises that, due to their dimensions, escape the control of the authorities of a State or endanger its population.”