|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Sunday, July 13, 2003 Posted: 12:25 PM EDT (1625
Sunday, July 13, 2003 Posted: 12:25 PM EDT (1625 GMT)
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano speaks Saturday during the closing ceremony of the African Union Summit.
MAPUTO, Mozambique (Reuters) -- African leaders have agreed to improve economic governance and work harder to halt regional conflicts and the spread of AIDS, Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano said on Sunday.
Chissano, current chairman of the 53-member African Union, said that Africans also wanted reforms and investment on the continent accelerated under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) -- Africa's economic rescue plan.
"The leaders were keen to get to operationalise NEPAD, to get it to start delivering investment and improvement in infrastructure to our people," Chissano told Reuters in an interview in the capital Maputo.
Speaking at his seaside palace after his country hosted the annual African Union (AU) summit, Chissano said leaders were pleased by progress in efforts to settle some of Africa's conflicts but remained concerned about others.
"Burundi remains a huge concern and we have appealed to the international community to help us in trying to fix the problem," he said.
"Things in Liberia are on the way to the mend. Regional forces and the international community are keen to restore order and the leader there has offered to leave office to create conditions for peace," he said.
African leaders have urged U.S. President George Bush to send troops, funding and logistical support but Bush ended a five-day African tour on Saturday with no decision on Liberia.
Officials said the AU's broader drive for peace had revealed differences on how a proposed security and peace council and a rapid deployment force would operate, but some said the differences were largely procedural.
On Friday, the continent's most powerful men agreed to hold a special summit to resolve policy differences over a joint peacekeeping force. They said political stability remained a major target.
Chissano said the African Union had agreed a declaration making AIDS a top development enemy, and was working to harmonise the continent's response to tackling it. They also agreed to raise funding from internal sources and donors for the anti-AIDS war.
Critics said Africa's war on AIDS appeared undermined by leaders like Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who told the summit that AIDS, malaria and Tsetse flies, which cause sleeping sickness, were armies ordained by God to protect Africans from imperialism.
But Chissano said Gaddafi was one of the signatories to the anti-AIDS declaration.
On the vexing political conflict in Zimbabwe, Chissano said leaders agreed to leave it to regional groups. He said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were also working on resolving the dispute.
"All we can do is try to help, but eventually Zimbabweans must rise to the challenge of talking to each other and resolving their problems," he said.
Chissano said the next annual AU summit would be held at its Addis Ababa headquarters next year after war-damaged Madagascar withdrew its request to host the summit.
Colourful meeting of African heads
It was fitting that African heads of state chose to meet in Mozambique at a time when they were committing themselves to peace and stability in Africa.
Today, Mozambique is one of Africa's few success stories and an example to those countries still beset by conflict.
African leaders know that unless they bring an end to Africa's wars, their much-heralded recovery plan, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) will never get off the ground.
The annual meeting of African heads of state is always a highly colourful occasion.
English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic voices float on the breeze, as dark-suited dignitaries from east and southern Africa mingle with their flamboyantly-dressed counterparts from west Africa.
There is however, one man who always steals the limelight - Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
With his expansive motorcade, the Gaddafi circus never failed to cause a stir among the waiting journalists as he swept in and out of the Maputo conference centre each day.
While his fellow African leaders walk up the red carpet into the main hall, Mr Gaddafi goes to extremes, with his car driving over the carpet to bring him even closer to the door. His Herculean female bodyguard, in her red beret, keeps the press photographers at bay.
When invited to express a vote of thanks during the closing session of the summit, Mr Gaddafi, dressed in a flowing orange gown, took the floor and delivered a ranting speech that lasted about half an hour.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, was one leader who chose not to stay and listen.
A constant talking point among observers at these annual meetings is which African presidents have decided to attend and which have stayed away.
The most noticeable absentee this year was the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, now an indicted war criminal, but still holding on to power in Monrovia. He is refusing to accept an offer of asylum in Nigeria until international peacekeepers arrive in Liberia.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was in Maputo, but kept an unusually low profile. With steely determination, he lowered his head and refused to be drawn by reporters' questions as he entered the building.
The crisis in Zimbabwe was not on the AU summit agenda, but diplomats confirmed that behind the scenes, there was much quiet diplomacy, with some African leaders preferring to voice their concerns about Zimbabwe privately.
Madagascar was welcomed back into the fold of the African Union this year, having been excluded from last year's summit in Durban because of the violent power struggle going on in Madagascar at that time.
It was even hoped that Madagascar, now led by President Marc Ravalomanana, would host next year's event, but President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique announced that following the troubles in Madagascar, the country was not yet ready to stage an AU summit.
The leaders will therefore gather at the African Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa in 2004.
While the presidents were at work, drafting declarations on armed conflict, the fight against HIV/Aids and poverty, Africa's first ladies were clearly enjoying the Maputo experience.
They brought added elegance to the famous Polana Hotel, as they admired the views of the Indian Ocean from the terraced lawns.
Back in the heat of the conference centre, President Chissano was asked by the BBC to summarise in 30 seconds what the African Union had achieved this year.
"I don't need 30 seconds", he replied. "Quite simply, we have more cohesion and more solidarity."
In the gardens outside however, the former Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda, clutching his familiar white handkerchief, spoke of the dangers of failing to meet the complex challenges facing Africa in the 21st Century.
"We have to succeed, otherwise, we'll perish", he warned.