24 January 2006
Africa is better off than ever before in terms of socioeconomic development, peace and stability, outgoing African Union (AU) chair Olusegun Obasanjo said at the opening of the sixth AU summit of heads of state in Khartoum, Sudan on Monday.
He said the “high spirit” of African people was a good sign that the AU was succeeding in its efforts to improve political and socioeconomic conditions on the continent.
“Over the past year, since our gathering in Lybia, we have demonstrated an unprecedented capacity to champion the cause of peace, unity and development in Africa,” the Nigerian president said.
The African Union’s international partners, including the G8 countries, were encouraged by the positive strides of the organisation and were “complementing our efforts to transform our continent,” he said.
“The challenge before us, therefore, is to sustain the momentum, carry our people along, encourage best practices and consolidate the gains of reform.”
Obasanjo warned the continent’s leaders not to allow AU successes to make them complacent. He decried the situation in Darfur, urging negotiating parties to discuss a settlement with “sober heads”.
“In spite of the efforts made by the AU mission in Sudan, insecurity continues to prevail while the humanitarian situation appears not to have improved,” he said, adding that a resolution to the regional crisis was essential to the continent’s success.
Human rights and education
The summit will also discuss the issue of Hissene Habre, who stands accused of gross human rights abuses during his tenure as president of Chad. Habre ruled the country from 1982 until 1990, when he was deposed by current President Idriss Deby and fled to Senegal. His one-party regime committed widespread atrocities.
African civil society groups have urged the AU to recommend his extradition to Belgium, where he will be tried for crimes against humanity, or to arrange for him to be tried in Africa.
With the theme “Education and Culture”, the summit also aims to develop plans to improve education and preserve indigenous cultures on the continent, with distinguished African educationists and cultural personalities making presentations.
In his address, Obasanjo cautioned about the dangers of internalising foreign cultures and educational principles at the expense of “own indigenous culture and norms”.
“Culture is the essential cement of every social group. It is the primary means of inter-communication as well as interaction with the outside world,” he said.