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African leaders urged to meet MDGs'
February 1, 2005

01 February, 2005

ABUJA - The fourth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) opened yesterday with different speakers calling on African leaders to make concerted efforts if the continent is to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

President Festus Mogae was among the leaders attending the two-day meeting.

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was one of the speakers, regretted that Africa is currently not on track to achieve MDGs.

Annan observed that Africa had a disproportionate share of the world's poor and the situation was compounded by the fact that the continent "suffers from the tragic consequences of conflicts and poor governance".

He noted that security and development were inextricable, adding that poverty and diseases, such as AIDS which kill many Africans, posed a threat to international peace and security.

The UN chief said there were many ways that the world body could help Africa resolve its problems, provided the AU was strengthened and effective, thereby challenging its member states to do a soul searching whether they had the capacity to build collective security systems and eradicate poverty and infectious diseases such as AIDS, TB and malaria.

He further challenged African leaders to make 2005 a year of hope and renewal for the UN and Africa, noting that unlike in the founding years of the UN, the AU with its 53 member states had the capacity to influence decision making at the world organisation.

Annan advised the African leaders that the AU summit in New York in September afforded them the opportunity to advance Africa's course in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, as well as forging closer links between the AU and UN.

He said one key success to Africa's development challenges was for the AU to forge closer links with the UN.

Notwithstanding the conflicts bedevelling Africa, Annan was upbeat that the AU had made great strides in promoting conflict management in Africa, citing the efforts in resolving the conflict in the Sudan as a great success for Africa's mediation efforts.

AU Commission chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare also underscored the importance of security and peace "because without it, there can be no development in Africa".

Konare said Africa needed to improve its defence mechanisms and to be strict in the treatment of mercenaries. "We also need to be very rigid in the use of child soldiers, abuse of women and children," he warned.

He further called for the strengthening of Africa's representation outside and for its leaders to speak with one voice, as well as to strongly asserts its development goals and improve means of negotiations.

He pleaded with Africans to have a unity of purpose and to do away with racial and other forms of discrimination. "We need an Africa which is neither black nor white and our unity should not be a matter of foreign or external influence but must come from within." Nigerian president and AU chairman Olusegun Obasanjo regretted the situation in Dafur, saying it was sad to note that on the eve of the AU summit, hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in bombings provoked by rebels.

"Let us show the world that we can resolve our problems on our own. Let us not play around with history and the future of our youth, women and children," said Obasanjo. BOPA


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