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Africa Advancing On Democracy And Human Rights

Africa Advancing On Democracy And Human Rights, General Assembly Told

New York, Sep 24 2008 10:11AM

African countries are making important advances in embracing democracy, respecting human rights, tackling corruption and strengthening their economies, Tanzanian President and African Union (AU) Chairman Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete told the General Assembly today.

Speaking to dozens of heads of State and government gathered for the annual high-level Assembly debate at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kikwete said he brought “with me a message of hope and optimism from Africa.

“Africa is no longer the hopeless case as perceived by some. There are so many good things happening on the continent. There is increasingly political stability, peace reigns in almost all nations except a few, and economies of many nations are blossoming.”

Many of the continent’s countries have successfully staged democratic elections in the past two years, he said, noting that – aside from Kenya and Zimbabwe – those polls were largely peaceful.

Mr. Kikwete added that it was also heart-warming that Africans themselves had taken the lead in monitoring elections and in resolving conflicts, such as in Kenya, as they arose.

“The old principle of non-interference in internal affairs is surely being replaced by non-indifference to violations of democracy and abuse of human rights.”

But the Tanzanian President warned that while there are fewer conflicts in Africa today than there were a few years ago, much more still needs to be done to boost the AU’s capacity for conflict prevention and resolution.

Turning to the five-year conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, which pits rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen, he noted that the humanitarian crisis persists despite some encouraging signs of improvement.

The joint UN-AU peacekeeping force – known as UNAMID – is slated to have 26,000 troops and police officers when it reaches full deployment, but currently has only about 10,000 uniformed personnel in the field.

“There is need therefore for the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan to continue to work together expeditiously to remove the obstacles impeding the deployment of UNAMID, the dialogue between the Government of Sudan and the rebels, operations of humanitarian work and the process of dispensation of justice," Mr. Kikwete said.

He added that he held “fruitful” discussions with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and other senior Government officials two weeks ago, as well as with officials from UNAMID.

“I am hopeful that progress can be made. We need to seize the moment and the opportunities unfolding.”

Mr. Kikwete stressed that it was the AU’s considered view that the indictment of Mr. al-Bashir on war crimes charges relating to Darfur – prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are seeking an arrest warrant – should be deferred as it would complicate the deployment of UNAMID and humanitarian relief efforts.

“Let me make one thing clear – that when we talk about deferment, we should not in any way be perceived as condoning impunity. Justice is a matter of essence. We are simply concerned with the best possible sequencing so that the most immediate matters of saving lives and easing the suffering of the people of Darfur are dealt with first."

The AU Chairman also voiced concern about the ongoing violence in Somalia and the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and pledged his organization’s support of UN efforts to bring peace to those two conflicts.


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