Noting that collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union has entered a historic phase with the establishment of a joint peacekeeping operation in Darfur, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the year ahead will be a crucial one for the two bodies as they strive to achieve shared goals.
“Close partnerships are crucial for addressing the continent’s peace and security challenges,” Mr. Ban told the opening session of the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was dominated by the post-electoral turmoil in Kenya.
The Secretary-General reminded the gathered leaders of the “alarming” developments in Kenya, where more than 800 people have already lost their lives, and more than a quarter of a million have been displaced, in the aftermath of disputed elections last month.
Mr. Ban, who is travelling to Nairobi tomorrow, called on President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to “do everything possible to resolve the sources of the crisis peacefully.”
In his address, the Secretary-General highlighted the “long-standing and fruitful” collaboration between the two organizations, whether in the fields of peace and security, regional integration, human rights or development.
That partnership was most evident in the recent hand-over of authority from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to the UN-AU hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in a bid to end the tragedy in the war-torn Sudanese region.
He added that the AU and the UN are also working together to bring a negotiated political settlement to the crisis, which has already led to the death of some 200,000 people and the displacement of another 2.2 million.
The partnership between the UN and AU was also vital in helping to resolve other conflicts on the continent, such as in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in northern Uganda and in Somalia.
Mr. Ban also drew attention to the world body’s efforts to ensure more effective support to countries, including Burundi, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, striving to make the transition from war to lasting peace.
The UN’s efforts also extend to helping African countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the pledges made by world leaders to slash poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy by 2015, as well as to promote human rights, and address the threats posed by climate change, Mr. Ban told the gathering.
The Secretary-General had bilateral meetings with several leaders at the summit, including Mr. Kibaki, who he encouraged to move toward a quick resolution of the crisis in Kenya. They discussed the humanitarian situation there, as well as Mr. Ban’s visit.
The Secretary-General also met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and said he was encouraged by the arrangements agreed to between Algeria and the UN for the forthcoming investigative panel looking into the 11 December Algiers terrorist attack.
In addition, he also met with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro of Côte d'Ivoire, with whom he discussed the Ouagadougou Accords and the elections that are to take place this June, which the UN will support.
In a meeting with President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, the Secretary-General talked about the President’s nomination to head the Economic Community of West African States, as well as Burkina Faso’s current role on the Security Council and the situations in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea.
Mr. Ban is also scheduled to meet today with the Prime Ministers of Somalia and Guinea and the Presidents of Benin and South Africa.
Meanwhile, in a message to the summit, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim noted that the AU and its members “have an impressive history of constructive participation in the General Assembly’s work.”
Mr. Kerim added that he hoped the AU’s leadership would help to chart a way forward on “the pressing need to make progress on Security Council reform.”