OPENING ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE COMMISSION OF THE AFRICAN UNION, ALPHA OUMAR KONARE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SECOND EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF THE ASSEMBLY OF THE AFRICAN UNION
SIRTE, 27-28 February 2004
His Excellency the Chairperson of the Assembly of Heads
of State and Government of the African Union,
Your Royal Majesty,
Brother Leader of the Great Jamahiriya,
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished Members of the Executive Council
of the African Union,
His Excellency President of the European Union Commission,
His Excellency Director General of FAO,
Africa’s Development Partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me, first and foremost, to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to the host country and to the Leader of the Great Jamahiriya for the warm hospitality he has once again lavished on the Continent and for his unalloyed and unwavering dedication and commitment to the progress of Africa and the well being of its people.
To all of you, Excellencies Heads of State and Government, we extend our warm welcome and assure you of our total commitment to measure up to the trust you have reposed in us and the expectations of our people.
To all of you also, our partners, we express our gratitude and recognize your presence in our midst.
We particularly thank the President of the European Union Commission, H.E. Romano Prodi, for his unflinching support and commitment to our cause.
We are gathered here on this African soil of Libya
to discuss and decide, under the guidance of our Heads of State
and Government, on two issues of vital importance for our Continent,
two key sectors of NEPAD, namely a common
This, the Continent has now come to realize, often,
unfortunately in times of trial, but fortunately as an integrated
and united entity. An eloquent proof of this are
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
The Preamble to the Protocol establishing the Peace
and Security Council testifies to our determination to make Africa
a Continent of peace and stability; a region devoid of armed conflicts,
land mines, atomic weapons, illicit proliferation, circulation and
trafficking of small arms and light weapons, heartrending spectacle
of Africans going into exile in search of greener pastures in their
You have very courageously highlighted the interrelationship
between institutional development and strong democratic culture,
respect for human rights and the
It is this commitment, which has a value of an oath, that underpins the Protocol relating to the Peace and Security Council, the provisions of which you will be examining today in order to endow it with effective instruments for the implementation of the objectives that you have set for the Commission of the African Union in the areas of defence and security.
The Commission is gratified that thanks to the
relentless and sustained efforts you have continued to deploy, especially
since the adoption of the Cairo Declaration
This determination has been reinforced by an event
that we all felt like a stab in our hearts. I am here referring
to the genocide in Rwanda which took place before our very eyes,
finding us helpless and impotent; the genocide, the
Fortunately today, we can rejoice at the positive developments in conflict situations in Africa. Be it in the Great Lakes region, in Central, West or East Africa, tensions are increasingly giving way to cooperation. Many countries of the Continent which yesterday were still in critical situations are today on their way out of crisis or in post conflict reconstruction phase.
However, we must not lower our guard because these processes are still fragile, with other hotbeds of tension emerging here and there and which are likely to develop into serious crises if care is not taken.
Besides, notwithstanding the global positive changes which we all welcome, the peace processes we are witnessing are still fragile and need to be consolidated.
This is why the present Extraordinary Summit has added significance.
The recent meeting of the Ministers of Defence
and Security in Addis Ababa and the one that has just taken place
here in Sirte both point to the need for Africa to put in place
a credible system, not only for prevention and intervention, but
also for the defence of the Continent. The entry into force of the
Protocol on the Peace and Security Council compels us to speed up
the establishment of our Common
Regarding security, we know that it comes in very
diverse forms, especially in Africa. The common defence and security
policy we should put in place must go beyond the conventional and
classical aspects of defence and security, and encompass the notion
of human security based on universal political values as well as
the economic and social aspirations of the people of Africa. This
The security we are referring to therefore consists
in preserving, at national level, the security of the State, that
of individuals, families and communities, no doubt
May I point out, at this juncture, that the Achilles’ heel, in other words the weak point of the African conflict management mechanisms has always been that of lack of resources. Hence the need for the African Union to endow itself with adequate resources and capacities to effectively carry out its mission.
However, in order to have the resources to carry out our policy, we must do away with improvisations and ad-hoc solutions, and provide our Organization with an appropriate mechanism that enables it to mobilize both internal resources and assistance from our partners. Our Ministers of Defence and Security have driven this message home when they said: Africa must develop its own means of defence.
Concerning the agriculture and water situation on the Continent, the figures speak for themselves much more than words.
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
The African population will double in 27 years, and let no one make us feel any complex about this because it can and should be a decisive asset in the building of a more just world order.
Nonetheless, we should not bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich because the challenges of turning our Continent from its status of manager of shortages to that of producer of surpluses are enormous and daunting.
Today, 210 million Africans, i.e. a little less than one third of the Continent’s population, are malnourished; a figure which shot up by 14 million in 1992 and 28 million in 1969. Per capita food production on the other hand fell by 23% on the Continent over the last 25 years.
If nothing is done to stem the vicious circle of famine and poverty, by the year 2010, 300 million Africans will face food insecurity, chronic for most of them and acute for the most vulnerable, ie children below the age of 5 and their mothers.
Women constitute the majority of the African population.
80% of them live in rural areas, notorious for food shortages. This
should therefore give us a real food for
The situation in which we find ourselves takes on an exceptionally grave proportion when we realize that 68% of Africa’s manpower is employed in agriculture, the neglected orphan of our investments, and yet the very foundation of our production and the prerequisite for our development and our sovereignty as countries and as a Continent.
Africa’s production is increasingly becoming inadequate for its people. This is a tragedy more so as experts agree and common sense supports their thinking that it is only from its own production that Africa can feed itself, and only its own production can make it self-sufficient in terms of access to food.
The successive decline registered in the agricultural sector constitutes a huge challenge for all of us. Only 7% of the arable land in the Continent, that is 150 million hectares, have been placed under cultivation.
It is worrying that our Continent has disinvested
in agriculture. This phenomenon is widespread. As a matter of fact,
public investment in the agricultural sector plummeted from 8.4%
to 1.9% between 1984 and 1994, according to data
This downward trend is more significant in the
area of external assistance for African agriculture which dropped
by 8% in the 90s. Between 1993 and 1997, World Bank loans for African
agriculture fell from US$658 million between the
Experts are however positive that African agriculture holds out huge promise. It is also a profitable venture. For every dollar invested in it, the economic returns are worth as much as 2 to 3 dollars.
However, the situation can be better because this Continent of ours has enormous potentials, with sufficient arable land and water resources, both surface and underground.
As regards water, the situation both quantitative
and qualitative is also quite alarming. Over 450 million Africans,
that is, one African out of two, do not have
The Continent, since 1950, wasted 6/8 of its water resources (ground water, lakes and rivers), and specialists predict that another 1/8 will evaporate by 2025. This underlines the seriousness of the problem and the urgent need for us to find the most appropriate responses.
On this score, the impact of water on public health and conflicts deserve our special attention. Water is the vector of numerous diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera to mention but a few, and also malaria which alone claims the lives of closely one million Africans every year. Malaria accounts for a third of all deaths in developing countries; and each day, water borne diseases kill 6,000 children.
The “blue gold” is, alas, at the root
of numerous conflicts. Africa is home to 70 transborder rivers some
of which have the potential to concurrently irrigate several
And yet again, Africa is one of the greatest reservoirs of fresh water in the world, an asset that has remained untapped. The Continent boasts twelve (12) river basins, whereas only 2.5% of the earth’s waters is potable.
There is therefore the absolute need to manage water more rationally by avoiding wastage. We can achieve this with a heightened sense of our individual and collective responsibilities. To this end, we need to focus on technical solutions involving inexcessive use of water. Furthermore, we should encourage scientific research so as to make the best of projects such as the “Libyan artificial river” whose success is today here for us to see.
It is needful for us, and this is vital, to pool our competences and resources in pursuance of our commitment to the 2000 Initiative, and promote discussion and water sharing within the ambit of regional and sub-regional bodies, and with the participation of our people.
There is no gainsaying it: water is at the center
of sustainable development. It will be one of the major challenges
of the 21st Century. And, we should make no
Greater solidarity, greater equity, rational management of water that reckons with future generations; employing all our genius to harness our water resources for productive purposes; access to water as a universal right. These are some of the challenges that the Continent must address and resolve, if it is to achieve sustainable development.
Our situation is all the more unjust because it
is our humble and honest citizens that, under the rain or sunshine,
eke out a living from the earth, producing the coffee or cocoa,
the cotton or tea which the global market purchases at its own price.
This is dumping unprecedented to say the least, which undermines
our best efforts and compromises what is increasingly asserting
itself as a basic right of
The time has come for Africa to react, and it
has the resources to stand up purposefully, once and for all, to
Africa’s time is not too far away. It is probably here with us. It is here in Sirte where the project for a virile Africa was crystallized, welding together the Continent’s energies and all its assets. It is there in the mission which our Heads of State and Government set for the Commission of the African Union. Africa’s time indeed resides in the scrupulous implementation of the values and projects embodied by NEPAD.
Thanks to its leaders, the Continent has devised
a strategy for what is possible, and for what is achievable. Possible,
because others succeeded, driven only by generational will and sense
of duty. Achievable, because we have all that it
This is a moment we must not let slip by; in the same vein, we must have the sense of history to seize the opportunities now before us. Africa has hesitated so much; and for so long, it has accumulated resolutions and decisions that have remained unimplemented. Your Excellencies, Heads of State had made this very point, and asked us to draw appropriate lessons therefrom. Africa has too often come disorganised to forums that could have changed everything in its favour.
Africa could, here and now, agree on the issues
that matter most; it could come up with a common position to tackle
the hunger decimating its children; it could devise a master plan
for agricultural self-sufficiency in the Continent, and thereby
establish a solidarity contract between its component countries,
a contract that takes on board not only the diverse realities on
the Continent, but also the
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
The present two Summit gatherings exclusively
devoted to a common defence policy on the one hand, and to agriculture
and water on the other, are part of the opportunities that we cannot
afford to miss. In as much as Sirte has been the
In any case, this is the sign emitted by this particularly huge assembly, and clearly the current expectation of the African nation. This is because agriculture is, for Africa, not just the source of food; it is also the Continent’s major occupation, its economy and culture, and hence its future.
Agriculture will flourish only in the context
of a peaceful and stable Continent; hence the coherence of the approach
by which we are now tackling each of these fundamental aspects of
our progress as a Continent. Only through success can we
Long live the African Union in the service of
the people of Africa.