Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- A coalition of African-American organisations and groups dealing with African issues has expressed its determination to participate in the 'sixth region' (African Diaspora) as recommended by the African Union (AU).
Based on a proposal made by the Senegalese government led by President Abdoulaye Wade, the AU endorsed the active participation of Africans in the Diaspora in its affairs, labelling it the sixth region in addition to the West, East, Central, North and South of the continent.
In an exclusive interview with PANA, Melvin P.
Foote, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Washington, D.
based Constituency for Africa (CFA) said that in 2005, the organisation will focus on African health issues.
He said in the interview conducted electronically that apart from mobilising Africa-Americans to participate in AU's sixth region, the CFA would in 2005 emphasise a comprehensive health strategy for Africa "as opposed to a HIV/AIDS only strategy.
" The African-American personality, whose proposals impacted on the current US government stance on southern Sudan, severely criticised the international community for abandoning African problems as soon as new ones emerge elsewhere in the world.
He cited the example of the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, which has killed about 70,000 people and displaced over one million others since February 2003.
"I think Darfur suffers from the general neglect of Africa.
While it was on the front pages, the West stirred.
But now with the tsunami victims in Indonesia and Sri Lanka to deal with, Africa has again been relegated to the back pages, if covered at all," Foote said.
The CFA founder, who undertook a fact-finding mission to southern Sudan in 2001 and is credited for helping to change the US position on the southern civil war, admitted that his organisation has not been much involved in the Darfur crisis, which he described as "very bad.
and people continue to suffer.
" "I'm not sure though I would term it as genocide, especially when comparing it to say Rwanda! Tremendous human rights abuses and tremendous suffering is happening," Foote said in reaction to the US government's classification of the Darfur situation as genocide several months ago.
The CFA executive particularly slated the international community lack of attention to the HIV/AIDS pandemic "which claims more than 8,000 lives a day in Africa.
" He also expressed concern about the spread of the incurable infection during the civil war in South Sudan, which is supposed to end following the peace agreement that was signed last Sunday by Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) of Colonel John Garang.
"Since no one has been paying any attention there, I'm sure the number of infections will be tremendously high! I raised this on several visits to the region and I can tell you that they have begun to feel the hurt this pandemic is going to cause, regardless of peace," Foote told PANA.
As a way out, he challenged authorities in Khartoum to work out with the SPLM leadership, during the six-year transitional self- rule period, a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases.
A joint strategy is also required in addressing the lack of infrastructure in the south by utilising local companies, rather than relying on foreign ones, he noted.
"One thing found striking about Sudan is that whether you go north or south, these are some of the nicest and most decent people you will ever find," said Foote, whose organisation strives to educate the American public about Africa and its development issues.
He said that it is possible to reduce human suffering in that country, which is "culturally diverse, historically very significant and is endowed with a lot of natural resources.
" "If Sudan can succeed in pulling off a successful peace, I am sure this country will become one of the most important and wealthy countries," said the CFA founder and executive officer.
In his personal capacity, Foote also does a number of projects in a given year, including trade missions to Africa and the monitoring of African elections.