Ping optimistic as AU summit opens

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Jean Pi ng waxed optimistic Sunday as he opened the 14th Ordinary session of the AU summ i t here.
Though the 31 Jan.
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summit is being devoted to the development of informat ion and communication technology, seen as crucial in powering future economic gr o wth and speeding up the integration on the continent, the issues of economy as w e ll as peace and security dominated the AU Commission chief's address.
Ping said the continent had experienced mixed political and economic fortunes in the past year, but painted a generally rosy picture of the future.
He said the global financial crisis had generally hit the continent severely, bu t some countries escaped the worst, and were on the road to full economic recove r y.
"We have seen economic progress in some countries, while in others there has bee n some setbacks," he said.
Ping said Africa needed to speed up integration to marshal its collective power, noting this was important to leverage resources and advance common positions in the world.
He cited the Copenhagen climate change and G20 summits as examples in which Afri ca had used its common, integrated voice to good effect.
Ping said progress in integration had also been made in some areas, citing a num ber of regional infrastructure projects either under implementation or on the dr a wing board.
The AU Commission chief cited regional railway projects in east Africa, road pro jects in central Africa and power infrastructure schemes in southern Africa as e x amples of the progress that the continent was making to integrate its economies.
But he devoted much of his address to political and military hot spots on the co ntinent, saying these were generally retarding common progress.
"The persistence of conflicts and coups is a setback for us.
While considerable progress has been made in resolving some conflicts, others are moving slowly," h e said.
Ping said conflicts that were moving towards resolution included the political s tand-offs in Kenya and Zimbabwe, and the recent wars in Burundi, DR Congo and Co t e d'Ivoire.
But he said the political situation in Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Somalia, M adagascar and Sudan - where there was either open armed conflict or opposing aut h orities were on each other's throats - were far from being resolved.
"We need to counter this.
We should have a firm and strong (negative) attitude a gainst coups," he said, singling out Somalia as the gravest political problem Af r ica faced.
Ping said he hoped a new peace and security 'architecture' Africa was building w ould help end some of the intractable conflicts and consolidate peace on the con t inent.
The AU has declared 2010 a year of peace and security, and last December adopted a pan African non-aggression pact to ensure peace on the continent.

31 january 2010 10:13:00




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