|Diplomats urge respect for African self-determination|
Soumana Sako describes poverty as the biggest threat to peace and development
in Africa. A UMNS photo by Victor Babbage.
By Andra Stevens*
Oct. 23, 2006 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
Africa's right to pursue peace, democracy and development on its own
terms emerged as a strong underlying theme in comments from African
diplomats speaking recently at Africa University.
The diplomats had gathered for the annual Dag Hammarskj÷ld
Commemorative event that began Oct. 9. The weeklong observance provided
opportunities for public reflection and debate on topical issues such as
peace, gender and development.
Dag Hammarskj÷ld (pronounced HAM-mar-shold) assisted the emerging
nations of Asia and Africa as the former secretary-general of the United
Nations before dying in a 1961 plane crash in Zambia, which was
formally Northern Rhodesia.
Angolan Ambassador to Zimbabwe Joaquim de
Lemos (center) shares a laugh with participants at the annual gathering
of diplomats at Africa University. A UMNS
photo by Victor Babbage.
Talk of political independence and self-determination was a common
thread in the comments of Joaquim de Lemos, the Angolan ambassador and
dean of the African Group of Ambassadors Resident in Zimbabwe, and Rear
Admiral John K. Gbenah, Ghana's ambassador to Zimbabwe.
Issues of peace and governance, De Lemos said, were best tackled by
respective countries or regions, taking into account their peculiar
"Right now in Angola, we have enjoyed relative peace for about three
years, after having spent over 30 years in the bush," he said.
"Therefore processes such as elections and multi-partyism will also take
time to realize. (This is) something that has to be understood by the
regional as well as international community."
Gbenah concurred and said that "as African people, we need to examine
ourselves and try to solve problems which are particular and specific
to us in our own context."
Namibia's ambassador, Kakena Nangula, took the opportunity to reaffirm her country's solidarity with Zimbabwe.
Namibian Ambassador Kakena Nangula reaffirms
her country's solidarity with Zimbabwe at the annual Dag Hammarskj÷ld
Commemorative event at Africa University.
A UMNS photo by Victor Babbage.
"Namibia shall forever stand by Zimbabwe, for better or for worse,"
Nangula said. "We fought together, bled together in the trenches. …
Like Zimbabwe, we declared national reconciliation at independence
after waging a 23-year war against South Africa. This was rather out of
the realization and recognition of peace and its importance to the
people and development."
However, Nangula said, "as Africans, the vestiges of colonialism
remain with us, and we need to go through the process of rediscovering
The various diplomats spoke of poverty, gender and HIV/AIDS as
critical challenges in the African context. Soumana Sako, the executive
director of the African Capacity Building Foundation and a former prime
minister of Mali, described poverty as the biggest threat to peace and
development in Africa. Sako, whose country of Mali is one of the 14
least developed countries in the world, said "…poverty takes away from
human beings any hope."
The first step to fighting poverty in Africa and the world, he said,
was the empowerment of women. Sako added that governments should put in
place mechanisms to ensure equitable access to national resources, which
in turn would build transparency and accountability.
Ambassador Sheila Siwela of Zambia took the discussion even further
with an appeal for women's and men's voices, ideas and agendas to be
given equal weight in peace-building and development efforts. She noted
that "the peace agenda is a women's agenda." Issues such as poverty and
HIV/AIDS have been given a female face, she said, so African women must
be made effective partners in efforts to eradicate war, poverty and
The Dag Hammarskj÷ld Commemorative Week at Africa University ended
Oct. 13 with a one-day focus on United Nations peacekeepers and capacity
building for peace and reconciliation in various African countries.
The Dag Hammarskj÷ld commemorations are an annual event at Africa
University, held in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe.
This year's event featured key speeches, seminars and cultural
performances that engaged the public and fostered discussion on issues
of peace, gender, leadership, governance and development in Africa.
*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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