Sabratha- Libya (PANA) -- The 11th Session of the Conference of leaders and heads of state of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) started on Friday a t the resort town of Sabratha, about 60km west of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, un d er the chairmanship of the leader of the Libyan revolution and current chairman o f the African Union (AU), Mouammar Kadhafi.
The presidents of Benin, Yayi Boni; Sao Tome and Principe, Fradique de Menezes; Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi; Central African Republic; François Bozizé; Chad, Idris Deby; Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, and Liberia, Mrs.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are attending the session.
Ghana's Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama; Guinea-Bissau's National Assembly Speaker and Acting President, Raimundo Pereira; and Niger's Premier, Seini Oumarou, are the representatives of their countries in the summit which is also being attended by the Secretary General of CEN-SAD, Mohamed Al-Madani Al-Azhari, as well as the heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Tripoli and several experts.
In a speech at the inaugural meeting, Beninese head of state, Yayi Boni, who is the outgoing chairman of the Community, emphasized the geographical, demographic, and economic importance of CEN-SAD, which, he said, made itself the basis of “AU's pyramid”.
He said the regional community had an area of over 13 million square kilometres or 46% of Africa's area, with a population exceeding 400 million people or 48% of the population of the African continent.
He added that CEN-SAD was considered among the richest areas on the continent in terms of surface and underground natural r esources.
The Beninese leader also emphasised the efforts made since the 10th session of the Conference of leaders and heads of state of the Community for the development and promotion of programs of action for the regional grouping towards the full integration between its member countries at the instance of Kadhafi.
President Boni commended the role of Kadhafi, the initiator of the setting up of this regional grouping, stressing the role of CEN-SAD in the building of a unified Africa without borders that ensures security, harmony and progress for i ts people.
He underscored that CEN-SAD worked hard to avoid crises in some of its member countries, indicating that the intervention of CEN-SAD prevented the development of such crises into conflicts and clashes and helped the achievement of social peace, particularly in Mauritania and Guinea.
It also acte d to avoid any rifts or interruption in the dialogue between protagonists in Sudan.
The leaders and heads of state attending the summit will address several political, economic and security issues, relating to situations in Togo, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Central African Republic and Somalia, as well as the crisis between Chad and Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the situation in Mauritania and Guinea Conakry.
CEN-SAD, which was founded on 4 February 1998, following a summit initiated by the Libyan leader and which was attended by Mali, Chad, Niger, Sudan, and Burkina Faso, currently comprises of 28 member countries.
These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Togo, Tunisia.
The regional organisation is aimed at building an overall economic union on the basis of a strategy incorporating national development plans of countries and encouraging investment in agricultural, industrial, social, cultural, and energy fields, towards the building of single African country.