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Annan: African Leaders Not Doing Enough to End 'Unspeakable Horrors' - 2003-07-10

The annual summit of the African Union has opened in Mozambique with warnings from both United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki that African leaders are not doing enough to end conflicts on the continent.

Outgoing African Union chairman Thabo Mbeki said far too few member states have ratified the Peace and Security Council agreed to a year ago in South Africa. Only 16 of the continent's 53 states have done so.

A similar situation exists with regard to the Pan African Parliament. Not enough countries have ratified the creation of these bodies for them to be convened.

These bodies are seen as central to the continent's capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts. Mr. Mbeki said the Peace and Security Council, in particular, must be in place before next year's summit.

Secretary-General Annan said international efforts such as funding and peace missions are wasted in the absence of building political will and capacity to deal with conflicts. He said conflict brings shame to the African continent.

"Unspeakable horrors have been perpetrated which should fill every African, every human being with a sense of shame," he said. "They make it plainly evident that Africa has nowhere near the effective mechanisms it needs to prevent the outbreak of conflict or to enforce basic international humanitarian law."

Mr. Mbeki noted that there have been some successes on the continent in the past year and that some countries are contributing their own resources in response to the needs of their fellow Africans.

"I believe that together we have made a good beginning, and together let us move forward faster and build a life of hope for the children of Africa and the African diaspora," said Mr. Mbeki.

Disease also got its share of attention at the summit. Close to 30 million people in Africa are through to be infected with HIV-AIDS. In southern Africa, Botswana has the world's highest infection rate and South Africa the most infected people. Secretary-General Annan said that even as Africans are beginning to take control of their own development, it is being threatened by the impact of AIDS.

"The lethal impact of AIDS on food security has become devastatingly obvious," said Mr. Annan. "But the killing fields of AIDS stretch far further than that. Just as Africa seeks to focus on the future, some parts of it can barely hang on to the present."

The issue of Zimbabwe is not officially on the summit agenda, but Mr. Mbeki is expected to brief the African heads of state on his initiatives to end the crises in that country. The summit concludes Saturday.