Annan urges African leaders to end armed conflicts crippling continent

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told Africa’s leaders gathered in Mozambique for the African Union’s annual summit that only they could end the devastating armed conflicts that were taking an unconscionable toll on their people and on the overall development of their continent.Along with working to end conflicts, African leaders must also break the deadly wall of silence that continues to surround the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and make the fight against AIDS a priority second to none, he told African heads of state in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.“The UN and the rest of the international community can appoint envoys, urge negotiations and spend billions of dollars on peacekeeping missions, but none of this will solve conflicts, if the political will and capacity do not exist here, in Africa.”Mr. Annan pointed to Mozambique’s peaceful transition after 16 years of civil war as one of the great African success stories, but stressed that heartbreaking events in Liberia and the beleaguered northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had made it painfully evident that Africa has nowhere near the mechanisms it needs to prevent the outbreak of conflict or enforce basic international humanitarian law.“That is why this Union, and all its Members, must work for an integrated strategy of peaceful settlements” he said, adding that he hoped every one of Africa’s leaders would make it their personal mission to convince the young people of the continent that the lives and safety of their fellow Africans are sacrosanct, and that there can be no substitute for the fruits of peace.“Indeed, the birth of your Union…reflected an historic reaffirmation that Africa itself bears the primary responsibility for shaping its fate and future; and that the best way – the only way – for Africa to carry out that mission is to unite around the needs and aspirations of your people.”But lasting peace was far more than the absence of war, Mr. Annan said. “It is sustainable only if accompanied by democratic transformation and good governance… and must go hand in hand with the work for poverty reduction and development. That meant a whole-hearted investment in education and the empowerment of women, the most effective development strategies we know. It also means a focus on employment creation.At the same time, he said, an agricultural transformation is needed to break the pattern of recurring food crises. “The latest famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a tragic reminder of the desperate need for Africa to develop the capacity to feed itself – to bring about the kind of Green Revolution we have seen take hold elsewhere.” Achieving this would require radical approaches on multiple fronts, based on both new and existing technologies, as well as far-sighted land and water management.It would also require addressing the inextricable link between food insecurity and the biggest threat facing Africa today – the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS. “Just as Africa seeks to focus on the future, some parts of it can barely hang on to the present, Mr. Annan said, adding that “Africa’s efforts are being systematically undermined – by a virus so cruel that it strikes young adults as they are poised to enter their most productive years, and assume the mantle of leadership.”“We know from experience that the spread can be turned back. Some African countries have indeed done so. But it cannot be done piecemeal. It requires a coordinated response from all sectors of society,” he said. It requires leadership – in Governments, in schools, on the streets, in places of worship, in families, among people living with HIV/AIDS and in the most affected communities.“It requires all of you to show the way by example: by breaking the deadly wall of silence that continues to surround the pandemic, and by making the fight against AIDS a priority second to none. I have made it mine; I know several among you have made it yours,” Mr Annan said.He said the UN family will keep working in close partnership with the African Union across the full range of those challenges: from education to governance, from agricultural development to the fight against AIDS; and at the level of the African Union, by supporting the development of key Union institutions.“We will keep working with you to strengthen African peace-building and conflict resolution capacities. And we will keep working with you to help ensure that the new peace and security architecture for Africa benefits from enhanced African peacekeeping capabilities as well as active UN engagement,” he said.

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