Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- The Panel of the Wise, a newly-created conflict prevention and mediation instrument of the African Union (AU), Tuesday took up its mission on a note of optimism that Africa was headed towards consistent peace and harmony.
Ahmed Ben Bella, the Panel's Dean and former President of Algeria, said the ancestral African values of wisdom and dialogue would be the guiding factor of the panel in carrying out its task.
"This is an essential element for any enterprise aimed at resolving peace and security issues arising in our continent and, also, an important step for the essential work of reconciliation -- be it at national or between countries in disagreement," he said.
In a message read on his behalf by Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the defunct Organisation of African Union, Ben Bella urged all AU member states and the body's institutions to recommit themselves to the realization of peace and security throughout the continent.
"We hope that by working together we'll be able to realise the hopes we all cherish of an Africa that is once and for all at peace, permanently reconciled with itself and effectively engaged on the road to development and integration," he added.
Ben Bella, who is due to celebrate his 91st birthday anniversary 24 December 2007, did not attend the Panel's inauguration ceremony that was held at the AU seat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare was equally optimistic that, following its launch, the Panel of the Wise would not leave other people from outside "to give us lessons on how we will better manage our problems" related to conflict resolution or prevention.
Konare explained that African leaders had appointed eminent persons to the Panel believing that they had the capacity to analyse problems that face the continent.
"The Panel of the Wise will be assisting all the organs of the AU in the prevention rather than cure of conflicts," he said.
He described the aging Ben Bella as "a symbol of liberation of the African continent" since the struggle for Algeria's independence from the French colonial rule in the early 1960s, "The war for the liberation of Algeria was a revolution of the youth who made sacrifice for an African revolution," Konare said.
Despite his old age, Ben Bella remained an African militant, Konare said wishing him good health.
The main mission of the Panel of the Wise is to support the efforts of the Peace and Security Council of the AU and the Chairperson of the AU Commission in the area of conflict prevention.
Other members of the Panel are South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Brigalia Bam, Benin's Constitutional Court President Elisabeth K.
Pognon and former Sao Tome and Principe President Miguel Trovoada.