ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF SIERRA LEONE
H.E. ALHAJI DR. AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
TO THE AFRICA-EUROPE SUMMIT
Cairo, Egypt, 3-4 April 2000
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me first of all express my sincere thanks to you, my brother, President Mubarak, for inviting me to be part of this summit, and to the Government and people of Egypt for the warm welcome which they have extended to me and to members of my delegation since our arrival.
It is fitting that this particular conference is being held here in Egypt, located as it is, geographically, at the crossroads between two great Continents -- Africa and Europe. Having played a pioneering role in the Panafrican movement, and as a founding member of our continental organization, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Egypt is an appropriate venue for this historic gathering.
The European Union, undoubtedly, belongs to the "first world" -- the developed world. It is economically rich, and has become one of the most influential groups in international relations today. On the other hand, the nations which constitute the Organization of African Unity (OAU), belong to the "third world", the developing world, where the average per capita income is less than $400, and where a third of its members are classified as least developed or LDCs. On the basis of the various criteria and indices utilised in compiling the Human Development Report, members of the European Community rank higher, much higher than those of the OAU. Most members of the OAU are at the lowers rungs of the ladder of human development.
Mr. Chairman, notwithstanding these and other disparities between our two organizations, and notwithstanding the perception, indeed the reality that Africa is marginalised in virtually every sphere of international economic and political relations, the fact remains that Africa and Europe share a common destiny. They are inhabitants of what has been described as our global village, where co-existence is inevitable. Therefore, this conference should not be seen as one of bringing together a group of developed and a group of developing nations; of initiating a dialogue between north and south; or between donors and recipients of aid, but rather as a conference of partners, partners in an inter-dependent world. The Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the European Union (EU), have at least one common purpose, namely to promote cooperation among their members by coordinating and harmonizing their national policies in pursuit of the aspirations of their respective peoples.
This conference is timely. It is taking place at a time when the European Union, under its Agenda 2000 is embarking on a number of internal reforms, some of which will have an impact on the Union's external relations, including those with Africa. We are also meeting on the eve of the new Partnership Agreement revising the Lome IV Convention. This will open a new phase of the special relationship between the Union and African/Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. We are also meeting here at a time when Africa itself is facing a series of challenges -- a challenge of confidence in its ability to keep its own house in order; a challenge of confidence in its capacity to use its tremendous potential to its fullest in achieving the goals which we have set ourselves, in such areas as democratic governance, conflict prevention, good neigbourliness, and the eradication of poverty in all its manifestations.
We are fully aware that it is Africa's responsibility to solve its own problems. However, the lessons of history, and the nature of human transactions today, have taught us that the responsibility is not theirs alone. Europe and Africa stand to benefit from cooperation in the development of each other's resources, and from solutions to each other's problems.
Cooperation between state members of the OAU and the EU, is at the bilateral, sub-regional and continental levels. I believe that each compliments the other, and that where possible these should be encouraged and strengthened. In the context of sub-regional integration we note for instance that ECOWAS, SADC and COMESA (the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), have all in recent years successfully developed close cooperation with the EU. As a nation in a post-conflict situation, Sierra Leone attaches special importance to continued cooperation between the EU and the OAU in the field of conflict prevention and resolution, in particular within the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution.
Mr. President, the United Nations is a centre, indeed the most important and universal centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in their effort to attain the common ends outlined in the Charter of the world Organization. In my view it is in that forum that both the OAU and the EU, through their respective caucusing groups at the United Nations, should work much closer together in reaching consensus on major issues of mutual interest. The Declaration and Action Plan which will emerge from this summit contain many of such issues. They are all, in one form or the other, on the agenda of the United Nations.
Therefore, we hope that the spirit behind the adoption of the Declaration, the spirit of Cairo, will inspire our OAU and EU representatives in the various bodies of the United Nations system, in resolving what ever differences may arise during the course of consultations and negotiations on issues related to those contained in this Declaration. This approach should add meaning and relevance to the Cairo document.
Drawing from the experience of the European Union, we also hope that in the not too distant future, the seeds of integration and unity which we have planted, in the form of the 1991 Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, and the Sirte Declaration of 1999, will germinate, grow and prosper into an African Union. This is not an impossible dream. The groundwork has already been made. We can fulfill that dream.
In closing, please permit me Mr. Chairman to express on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, my sincere appreciation to the EU and the OAU for their material support and solidarity in our effort to end the conflict and pave the way for lasting peace in our country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.