Press Releases

                                                                                                                            21 May 2004

    With Return of Peace, Time Had Come for Mano River Union Countries to Accelerate Development, Secretary-General Tells Conakry Summit

    NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Summit of Heads of State of the Mano River Union, delivered today in Conakry, Guinea, by Daudi Ngelautwa Mwakawago, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone and Chief of Mission:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to this important Summit meeting.

    The Mano River Union (MRU) figures prominently on the agenda of the United Nations, especially within the framework of efforts to restore durable peace and security to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  At the height of its deployment, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone was the large peacekeeping operation in the world.  With UNAMSIL’s ongoing drawdown, Liberia now has the largest United Nations peacekeeping operation.  The United Nations is also in the process of deploying a force of 6,000 to Côte d’Ivoire to assist the Ivorian parties in implementing the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.  Our humanitarian personnel are present throughout the region, helping you cope with the tremendous burden of refugees and displaced persons.  Our development agencies continue to support your efforts to promote better standards of living.  And we are also working closely with MRU leaders and the MRU Secretariat to reactivate the Union itself.

    Your region has suffered greatly from war, deprivation and misrule.  Your people yearn for peace and stability, for democracy, and for an environment in which their talents and energies can be channelled towards the essential work of socio-economic development.  As peace is being consolidated in Sierra Leone and gradually restored to Liberia, the time has come for the leaders of the Mano River Union to exercise the necessary political will to accelerate the development of their countries, to cut off the flow of small arms and light weapons, to curtail the use of child soldiers, to stop the smuggling of goods and the trafficking of drugs and people, and to address, decisively, the culture of impunity.  Trans-border collaboration, including border patrols, could be very effective and should be given due consideration.  Cooperation should also be intensified in other areas of common concern, such as building roads, transport and communication infrastructure, thereby fostering trade and investment and opening up avenues for employment, development and mutual trust.

    The Mano River Union is blessed with fertile soil, rich forests and mineral resources, and an abundance of water, rivers and streams.  If adequately harnessed, these assets could make the subregion the breadbasket of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries.  Indeed, the MRU could become the engine of growth for the West African region as a whole. Your region also boasts an active civil society.  In this connection, I would like to pay special tribute to the Mano River Women’s Peace Network for their relentless efforts to help restore subregional peace and harmony.  I trust that as heads of State, you will continue to encourage and support those efforts.

    I commend the determination of West African leaders to promote sustainable peace and stability not only in the Mano River basin, but throughout the subregion. There is likewise a welcome awareness of the close links between the situation in the MRU area and developments in the wider neighbourhood, as demonstrated by the presence of the heads of State of Côte d’Ivoire and Mali at a Mano River Union Summit. I look forward to working with all of you, and continuing to build our partnership, in the hopes that your people can, at long last, look to the future with hope.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful Summit.

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