Annan deplores use of sexual violence as war weapon

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has deplored the continued use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war in African conflicts.
Speaking here Tuesday at the African Union session on gender, Annan told African leaders that in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Darfur region of western Sudan, gender-based violence had reached almost epidemic proportions.
"Every effort must be made to halt this odious practice, and bring the perpetrators to justice," Annan urged African heads of state and government attending the third ordinary summit of the AU.
He called on African States to translate into reality the objectives of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
He said they should do so without delay, since implementation of this landmark document is due for review in October this year.
Immediately after the opening ceremony of the summit, Africa's leaders had a special session on gender issues.
They ended the session expressing total commitment to advance the status of women in their countries and South African President Thabo Mbeki urged his counterparts to report on their performance in this area at next year's ordinary summit.
Annan noted that Africa's women have made great strides forward and congratulated the AU on electing five women out of a total of 10 members of its Commission.
"This reflects growing recognition that gender balance is crucial to all areas of the AU's work," he said.
He observed that, increasingly, Africans understand that their continent cannot develop unless its women exercise real power -- in the home, in the local community, in the nation, and in the AU itself.
Annan said the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has set women's advancement, along with the eradication of poverty, as its two key long-term objectives.
"But let us be clear: inextricably linked with both of those is the need to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"The epidemic is proving a devastating obstacle to development, while taking an increasing and terrifying toll on Africa's women.
But women also have an indispensable part to play in all aspects of the struggle against it," Annan stated.
Recognising the role of women in the work for peace and security, the UN chief said time and again, women have played a constructive and essential part in peace processes.
"They are gradually finding a place at the negotiating table, in the implementation of peace agreements, in post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and disarmament.
"It is high time they were included in those processes in a more formalised way, at all levels and at all stages," he emphasised.

06 july 2004 18:36:00

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