Press Releases

                                                                                                                            7 July 2004

    Africa’s “New Democratic Spirit” Must Spread, Strengthen Says Secretary-General to African Union, while Warning of Threat Posed by Darfur Crisis

    NEW YORK, 6 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, 6 July:

    Let me first thank our hosts, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Government and people of Ethiopia, for the warmth of their welcome to Addis Ababa -- the city where, 41 years ago, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded.

    In the period that followed, the wave of liberation was sweeping through Africa, and for much of that hopeful time, this city was my home.  Back then, we all took heart from the energy and focus that the OAU brought to the tasks of helping end colonialism and promoting a pan-African vision for a better future.

    Africa today is free of colonial rule and apartheid, though we have not yet realized our aspirations for the peoples of Africa to live at peace with each other, and to work together to develop our continent.  But the foundation of the African Union, and the great strides that have been taken in the past year, under the able leadership of President Chissano, give hope that we are moving in the right direction.

    The vision of the Union, the principles that should guide it, and the strategies it should follow are clear and compelling.  The architecture of the Union is taking shape.  We should thank Mr. Konare and the other members of the Commission for the work they have done on all these fronts.

    The leading role played by Africans themselves in stabilizing Liberia, Burundi and the Comoros show their determination to assume responsibility for peace and security. The establishment of the Peace and Security Council is a landmark in your efforts to give yourselves the tools to do just that. The United Nations will continue to assist you with information, training, expertise and resources as you seek to put in place the African Standby Force.  I welcome the support you have received from the European Union and the Group of Eight.

    But the vision that you are working so hard to achieve is imperilled by the persistence of deadly conflict in Africa.  I am thinking, in particular, of the horrific situation in Darfur, in western Sudan.  I have just visited Darfur and the refugee camps in Chad.  The ruined villages, the camps overflowing with sick and hungry women and children, and the fear in the eyes of the people should be a clear warning to us all:  without action, the brutalities already inflicted on the civilian population of Darfur could be a prelude to even greater humanitarian catastrophe -- a catastrophe that could destabilize the region.

    The African Union’s efforts to monitor the ceasefire, and thereby assist in the protection of civilians, are vitally important.  The United Nations will support those efforts, just as we will further intensify our work to bring life-saving relief to those who so desperately need it.  I call upon the international community to redouble its efforts to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the people suffering in this region.

    But the threat of further brutal violence and massive civilian suffering will only recede if the crisis is dealt with in a comprehensive way.

    The Joint Communiqué recently signed in Khartoum between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan is a welcome development, as are the steps the Government has already taken to remove obstacles to humanitarian work.  The terms of the communiqué must now be implemented. The agreed moratorium on restrictions for all humanitarian work must be observed.  The climate of impunity that has prevailed for far too long must end now.  And the high-level Joint Implementation Mechanism must begin to function as soon as possible.

    I fully support the African Union’s efforts to address the root causes of the conflict to achieve a political settlement through the process which will start here in Addis Ababa on 15 July.  I stand ready to use my good offices to assist that process.  I call on all parties to bear in mind the lessons of Sudan’s history and resolve this crisis swiftly through dialogue.

    I remind the Government of its sacred duty to protect its citizens, and the rebel groups of their responsibility and duty to respect the ceasefire and work with the Government to end the conflict peacefully.  I applaud the progress made by the Government and the SPLA in the Naivasha process.  But peace in Darfur is vital for peace in southern Sudan.

    I am also greatly concerned by the recent upsurge in violence and human rights abuses in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, by the continued instability in Côte d’Ivoire, and by the continued tension between this country, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.  We must not let the achievements of recent years be rubbed out by a return to an Africa in which millions are plagued by terrible violence.  We must work together to end the terrible conflicts that are disfiguring our continent. 

    We must also work together to fight the poverty, disease, ignorance and lack of life-sustaining services which afflict the lives of millions every day.  After all, no amount of aid, no degree of diplomacy, and no number of peacekeeping operations can, on their own, lift Africa out of poverty, halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, or end deadly conflict.

    We must, first and foremost, address the root causes of insecurity and underdevelopment, and they often lie in poor governance.  That is why you have placed good governance at the heart of your efforts to build the African Union, and why you have embraced the Peer Review Mechanism as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

    The Peer Review Mechanism is a uniquely African approach to the challenges of African governance.  Its promise will only be realized with the political will to make the mechanism work, as a tool to strengthen democratic governance throughout Africa.  Your belief in that goal has already been demonstrated with the inauguration earlier this year of the Pan-African Parliament here in Addis Ababa.

    Today, more African States have democratically elected governments than ever before. In recent times, in many African countries, new governments have come to power in multiparty elections.  Voters have turned out in large numbers, reflecting their commitment to exercising their rights as citizens.  Widespread consultations on constitutional reforms are occurring in many countries.

    Civil society has stepped forward as never before, holding governments to account and injecting new dynamism into African societies.  Many African countries are setting an example to the world -- just as the Union itself has done by ensuring that half your commissioners are prominent and talented women.

    This new spirit of democratic empowerment in Africa must find a home in every African country.  For that to happen, politics must be inclusive, and a careful institutional balance must be preserved -- including regular free and fair elections, a credible opposition whose role is respected, an independent judiciary which upholds the rule of law, a free and independent press, effective civilian control over the military, and a vibrant civil society. 

    This institutional balance cannot be achieved without the peaceful and constitutional change of power.  There is no truer wisdom, and no clearer mark of statesmanship, than knowing when to pass the torch to a new generation.  And no government should manipulate or amend the constitution to hold on to office beyond prescribed term limits that they accepted when they took office.

    Let us always remember that constitutions are for the long-term benefit of society, not the short-term goals of the ruler.  Let us pledge that the days of indefinite one-man or one-party governments are behind us.

    Democracy is not perfect, and democratization is not easy.  But the more accountable governments are, the more likely they are to be responsive to the needs of their people -- whether that need is to prevent famine, fight poverty, or halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

    I welcome the leadership that more and more of you are showing on HIV/AIDS.  But none of us can ever do enough.  The worst thing we can do is to be silent about this terrible disease.  Silence equals death, particularly for Africa’s lifeline -- its women, who are increasingly bearing the brunt of this lethal epidemic -- and for Africa’s future -- its children, more and more of whom are being infected or orphaned or both.

    Inaction will destroy all your efforts to build good governance, robbing you of your public administrators, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and scientists.

    As some African countries have proved, HIV/AIDS need not be a death sentence for whole societies.  It takes vocal leadership from the President’s office down to the schoolyard.  It demands prevention and treatment strategies backed up by investment in health and education -- particularly girls’ education.  It requires policies to reduce stigma and discrimination.

    We can fight HIV/AIDS -- in Africa, as in every other continent.  If that fight is to be won, each and every one of us must lead from the front.  There is no higher duty of governance.  In all your efforts to build good governance in Africa, the United Nations will remain your firm advocate and your faithful partner.  We will help you to achieve measurable improvements in agriculture, infrastructure, health and education, as you work in the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and reach for the Millennium Development Goals.  We will support your efforts to build the institutions of accountability and participation in each country and in the African Union itself.  And we will spare no effort to ensure that your development partners keep their solemn promises -- including those they made in the Millennium Declaration on trade, debt relief, and overseas development assistance.

    I am establishing an Advisory Panel on International support for NEPAD to help us be more effective in those efforts.  I thank Chief Emeka Anyaoku for agreeing to chair it.

    You have stepped up to take charge of the destiny of this continent.  That is a source of hope for all Africans.  The challenge today is to be equal to the task.  Your new determination to build peace and security must be felt when it matters most -- and it matters now.  And Africa’s new democratic spirit must spread wider, grow stronger, and be felt in every nation.

    We can dream even bigger dreams than our forebears who founded the OAU here in Addis Ababa, 41 years ago.  And with unyielding resolve to act when action is necessary, we can make those dreams come true.

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