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African Leaders Promote Transparency In Government - 2004-02-13


African leaders are meeting in Kigali to launch an initiative designed to create more transparency in the governments on the continent.

The leaders plan to reach agreement on the exact procedures for a peer review process they agreed to start two years ago.

The process is to involve teams of officials visiting a particular country to investigate its human rights policies, poverty levels, corporate responsibility and social services, such as health and education.

The team would then make a report to the host government, as well as to NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development. That group, which is sponsoring the current meeting, was formed to promote improved political and economic management. The idea is that such improvements will result in more profitable trade, and more foreign aid.

Under the peer review plan, countries that do not respond positively to a report could face sanctions from NEPAD, which would hurt their ability to attract investment or aid.

Only 16 of the African Union's 53 nations have so far volunteered to be reviewed by their peers. Ghana is expected to be the first country scrutinized, beginning in April.

Speaking from Kigali, the NEPAD representative from Ghana, Kofi Apraku, explains why Ghana is eager to participate in the evaluation.

"We volunteered, because we believe that good governance is essential for our national development. We believe that we should demonstrate that, indeed, we are willing to learn, because we believe that this peer review mechanism is very essential to instill good governance practices to our system."

After the process starts in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius have agreed to peer reviews.

Each review could take up to nine months to complete, and will only be conducted in nations that volunteer.

Critics say that countries with the greatest abuses will most likely not volunteer for the evaluation.

The two-day meeting that opened Friday brings together officials from dozens of countries, including 11 heads of state.

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