- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

ABUJA, Nigeria - Heads of state wrapped up the fourth summit of the African Union this week, renewing commitments to find African solutions to the long-running conflicts impeding development of the world’s poorest continent.

They also pledged at Monday’s closing session to do more to fight the scourge of AIDS and other deadly diseases.

“We have adopted a wide range of decisions and declarations, and where necessary, we have also adopted a plan of action and follow-up mechanism,” said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, chairman of the 53-member group, at the end of the two-day session.

The leaders also reviewed conflicts on the continent, including the crisis in Ivory Coast; the civil war in Darfur, western Sudan; and renewed tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, added Mr. Obasanjo, whose term as AU chairman was extended until January 2006.

Ostensibly devoted to examining proposals to expand Africa’s say at the United Nations, particularly on the Security Council, the summit evolved into a discussion about conflict resolution, diplomats and summit organizers said.

Chronic instability is a cause of the abject poverty facing about 300 million of Africa’s 830 million people, who survive on less than a dollar a day and are without access to clean water or effective sanitation.

The continent lags behind the rest of the developing world in pursuit of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve poverty and extreme hunger, reduce child mortality, and combat diseases like malaria and AIDS, which together kill about 9,000 people in Africa every day.

The African Union’s social-affairs commissioner, Bience Gawanas, said the will exists for Africa to approach, if not reach, the targets by 2015, as long as the international community and African governments make good on existing financial commitments to the health and welfare of their citizens.

“Peace is not just about the absence of war, but also the absence of poverty, the absence of children going to bed hungry, and the absence of disease,” she said.

“If we are able to mobilize help and resources when natural disaster strikes, surely we are able to do the same for diseases and poverty, which have killed millions of people in Africa.”

Many of Africa’s very poor are refugees, among them an estimated 1.6 million Sudanese who have fled an explosive two years of violence in Darfur.

A long-awaited U.N. report about the violence in Darfur, born from a rebel uprising in February 2003 against government neglect of the desert region, does not describe the violence as genocide, the Sudanese foreign minister said Monday.

Those at the Abuja gathering included Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, attending his first pan-African summit in a decade.

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