President John Evans Atta Mills, at the week-end, urged African leaders to move with a calculated speed, to remove the barriers that continued to slow the Continent’s progress.
He was emphatic that, the development of Africa was a worthy objective, capable of being achieved, and that Africa did not have the luxury of time, and should therefore move as fast as it could to realize its development.
Delivering the keynote address at the 16th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia, President Mills said, “Africa must develop; and we must develop now.”
“We do not have the luxury of time. Too much time has passed us by and we need to move as fast as we can; of course, with calculated speed,” adding that, „that could only happen when the barriers that continued to slow progress were broken.“
The session, which is attracting more than 30 Heads of State and Government officials, is being held on the theme “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values.”
High on the agenda are the Ivorian crisis, the situation in Egypt, the issues in Somalia and Sudan and the quest for food security, as well as a sound maternal and infant health, among others.
President Mills reminded his colleagues on the need to provide a viable economic space regionally and continentally, to create a single compact African Political and Economic Unit, as well as a common space that would allow Africa maintain an identity that would stand tall.
He said: “We need to create a common market and adopt policies that will allow for free flow of people, goods, capital, and services.”
President Mills said the task of the African leader was to reflect on how the shared values could speed up the integration of the Continent, and to enable African leaders a people, to develop the material foundations for the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.
He paid tribute to Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, for his conviction that the unity of Africa and the strength it would gather from continental integration was sine qua non for Africa’s economic and industrial development.
Despite the struggle being hard and weary, Africa had succeeded in breaking barriers and broadening its frontiers to be free politically but its struggle still continues.
President Mills pointed out that the Continent’s quest for economic development was now greater than ever and the best way forward was through a united and integrated agenda.
“Our struggle is revolving around issues of political governance, democracy, rule of law, and human rights.”
President Mills said the African shared value, manifested itself strongly last year in South Africa, when people on the entire Continent rallied around each other to make Africa proud on the world stage of football.
He said Africans showed that that they were proud inhabitants, that given the chance, they would measure up to any standard.
However, it must be recognised beyond South Africa that shared value could not be static, and the shared value of the past had moved from total liberation of the African Continent to the inter-related objectives of unity and integration
President Mills pointed out that the ingredients of shared values include, transparent governance, free elections, human rights issues, cultural development, gender sensitivity and equality and most importantly, economic emancipation, with emphasis on the fact that African Unity was not and could not be a mere dream but achievable.
He stressed the need to plan and construct infrastructure on a continental scale to attract international capital and help create the material basis for integration, with combined strength, to deal with common enemies such as poverty, disease, tribal and ethnic conflicts.
President Mill called for leadership by example and for leaders to commit themselves to the well being of their people and the growth of their nations
“What are we waiting for?” he asked.
“If we lead by acceptable example; reawaken the conscience of our nations; and reconstruct the psyche of our people and direct it towards a common sense of purpose, there is no gainsaying the fact that, our value systems will propel us to higher heights.
President Mills announced that Ghana had started pumping oil in commercial quantities, and reiterated his pledge to make the oil find a blessing and not a curse.
“The oil revenue will be used for the benefit of the generality of Ghanaians; that is my solemn pledge to the people of Ghana and nothing will move me away from that position.
He congratulated the people of Sudan on a peaceful resolution of their historical differences; saying that, even if it results in a separation, it would produce good neighbours.
President Mills saluted the African Union and ECOWAS for the positions that they have taken, in looking for a lasting solution to the situation in Cote d’Ivoire.
He called for a tactful and diplomatic approach to the Ivorian matter, warning that, “it is very important that we do not prescribe a cure that is worse than the original disease.“
President Mills informed his colleagues that he had declared the Year 2011 an Action Year back at home and called on his colleagues to resolve to make meaning to the Continent’s oneness. “As a Union, let us also resolve to make this year our Action Year and give more meaning to our oneness.
“It is extremely important that we leave Addis Ababa with a stronger than ever resolve to give a lot more meaning and depth to the dream that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the Founding Fathers had for the Continent.”
He cautioned his colleagues of the unique positions of leadership they had found themselves and asked them not to fail the Continent.
“There are more things that unite us than divide us; let us hold on to the things that bind us together and work hard to move away from the things that keep us divided and prevents us from making the best out of the potential that we collectively have,” President Mills said.
Meanwhile, African leaders, on Sunday, made a fresh move in a bid to resolve the crisis in La Cote d’Ivoire, and respond to the latest political uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Dr Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, announced at the opening of the 16th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that a new five member team has been formed to mediate in the Ivorian crisis.
“A new High Level Group, comprising the heads of state of our five regions and the Presidents of the Commissions of the AU and ECOWAS, assisted by a team of experts, has been constituted to bring the Ivorian parties to climb in tune with their historical responsibility, to preserve their country’s democracy and peace”, Dr Ping, the Gabonese born chairperson said.
The team would join Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, to mediate and help restore peace in La Cote d’ Ivoire.
They include Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Jonathan Goodluck, of Nigeria, Mohamed Ould Abdel of Mauritania. Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills is attending the summit, which has the theme “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values.”
French President Nicolas Sarokozy, for the first time, since the establishment of the AU, attended the Summit. Also present were the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the AU President, Mr Bingu Mutharika of Malawi and the former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, who is attending the summit as an AU Eminent Person on Somalia.
African leaders attending the two-day Summit would discuss subjects, related to the political, economic integration and the maintenance of peace, stability and security in the region, and find solutions to Africa’s hot topics.
With a membership of 53 states, the Union is aimed at building a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular, women, youth and the private sector, in a bid to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among the people of Africa.
The major organs of the AU include the Assembly, the Executive Council, the Pan-African Parliament and the Commission, which reports to the Executive Council.
Dr Ping regretted also the resurgence of crisis in Egypt.
„Egypt is going through a situation, which we need to observe. It is a worrying situation,“ he said.
French President Sarkozy, who was the Guest of Honour, challenged the United Nations to reform the Security Council this year, to include one or more permanent African members.
He said: ”Don’t wait. Do not make a speech. Make decisions…Give the billion Africans the place they are entitled to and France will support you,‘ he said, to an applause from delegates.
The UN Security Council has five veto-wielding members- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and 10 non-permanent members.
President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi, who handed over the Chair of the Union to Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Mbasogo, stressed that, agriculture and food security were the basis for sustaining peace, security and development in Africa.
He was emphatic that Africa could be able to feed itself in the next five years.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called for more efforts to address maternal and child health, issues of the youth and to develop a vibrant private sector.
Mr Joseph Deiss, President of the 64th Session of the General Assembly said Africa was an indispensable partner in a global world.
He said the current process of rebalancing the economic, demographic and political world order and the increasing prominence of the African continent on the international stage, gave rise to new hopes as well as new possibilities.