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Speech by Federal President Horst Köhler to the African Union in Addis Abeba

Ein Mädchen überreicht Bundespräsident Horst Köhler einen Blumenstrauß. Addis Abeba, 15 December 2004 Photo: Andrea Bienert © Photo: Andrea Bienert

Thank you very much for this opportunitiy to address you today. I feel most privileged to speak at a venue of such significance for Africa's future.

Permit me firstly to say what I amnotgoing to talk about. I have not come here to tell you yet again how important it is that Africa should chart its own path. You know that far better than I. Above all I have not come to give you facile advice. What I would like to do is draw your attention to a few fundamental considerations that I believe are crucial to the future both of Africa and my own country. And I have come to listen and ask also questions, for I am convinced that dialogue is the only way to forge a genuine partnership.

Ever since I first set foot on African soil, this continent has fascinated me, it will not let me go. Therefore, I was particularly keen that my first trip outside Europe as President of the Federal Republic of Germany should be to Africa. The world today is a globalized world for which we are all responsible - and Africa is part of that world.

I have faith in Africa's future. But I know, too, that this faith is prone to a malaise common among Europeans who have dealings with Africa: the conviction that things must be done according to our own notions of urgency. That I am driven by a certain "impatience of the heart" I readily admit. Yet surely such haste does no real harm when its purpose is tackling hunger or resolving a conflict!

I am aware that Africa has its own special character. I see that as part of the rich diversity which makes our planet what it is. But I cannot accept that anyone should invoke this special character to justify lack of action or give free rein to oppression and abuses directed against their fellow citizens. To make this plain is not neocolonial interference, it is our duty as citizens of the world. Of course, as citizens of the world, you also have such a duty in Africa. It is absolutely normal, I believe, that you should also candidly point out our deficiencies, misconcenptions and misunderstandings in the industrialized, developed world. Such openness on both sides is in my view essential to a true partnership.

About the new path Africa is now treading with the African Union, with NePAD and also with its regional organizations much has been said - words of praise and warning, demanding and dismissive comments. It is crucial, as I see it, that you have developed your own concepts custom-made for Africa. You have shown that you realize what needs to be done and that you intend to do it: Africa will take charge of its own destiny and make the venture a success. AU, NePAD, these areyourconcepts and I encourage you to work with them to build your continent's future. This will require in particular an awareness of Africa's own responsibilities notably for the continent's acute security problems. I would be interested to learn how in your view the G8 and the international community as a whole can best support you in this regard.

One innovative feature of the path you have chosen is the mutual assessment of governance standards known as the African Peer Review Mechanism. This offers all concerned the opportunity to learn from each other. Sometimes I wish we in Europe could make more use of such a mechanism to give added impetus to our reform efforts. I look forward eagerly to the first results of the process of peer review. And I would like to know how you feel it is going.

If Africa is stillviewed in some quarters as a continent in crisis, that is clearly not without reason. Africa is especially hard hit by devastating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. Fortunately something is finally being done to tackle these scourges of mankind. But when I see that in some countries three people are recruited to fill every job vacancy because employers know from experience that two of them are bound to fall ill, it is clear to me that far too little is being done. Much more help is urgently needed and the extra money to provide it has to be raisedin additionto the funds required to boost economic development in Africa. However, the help needed is not just a question of money. Notably the example of HIV/AIDS shows that even more in terms of preventive information and education has to be done.

Regrettably, armed conflicts are still a daily reality in many parts of Africa. Despite the end of East-West confrontation, they are no fewer today than in the past. The genocide in Rwanda ten years ago remains unforgotten. More recently, in Sierra Leone brutalized gangs - often youths high on drugs - unleashed an orgy of wanton violence. I was in Sierra Leone, as you know, just a few days ago and had the opportunity to see for myself the impressive and courageous efforts people are making to come to grips with the trauma they have experienced. Here, too, I hope the truth and reconciliation commission will be able to help the process of healing. In recent years the conflict in the Great Lakes region and particularly in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has cost up to 3 million lives and even experts now find it hard to say where the battle lines in this conflict really lie.

In addition, currently two more crises are a special focus of attention: the developments in Darfur and Côte d'Ivoire. In Darfur there has been heavy loss of life and countless people have been driven from their homes. The African Union has now decided to intervene. I commend this decision. It demonstrates clearly that the African Union intends to assume its responsibilities also in the field of security. And I am satisfied by the fact that the European Union for its part is ready to provide financial and material support for the African Union's peace mission as well as logistical assistance. German soldiers, too, are involved in delivering this assistance. Unfortunately, however, the mission in Darfur is starting pretty late in the day: the expulsions, rapes and murders that have taken place cannot now be undone.

In Côte d'Ivoire there have since early November been dramatic developments in the ongoing civil war. I am appalled to see the stability of an entire region so thoughtlessly put at risk. I find it most worrying to see calls for hatred and violence gaining ground yet again. I welcome the African Union's decision to play a mediating role in this conflict and I call upon the parties involved to follow the advice of the African Union.

We need to consider what can be done to detect such potential crises at an early stage and initiate political action to defuse them. While prevention may appear costly and success difficult to measure, the costs of a war are incomparably higher, quite apart from the cost in human suffering. With the help of the United Nations, the task now is to clarify with Africa when intervention is politically right and necessary and when it is not. We need to explore through dialogue a consensus on guidelines so that the reasons for a specific intervention will be transparently clear.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union answers the question whether humanitarian interventions are ever justified with an unequivocal "yes". This is a historical milestone. I welcome that in taking this clear stand, the African Union has had a significant and positive impact on the international debate on the legitimacy of humanitarian interventions.

Armed conflicts generally have more than one causal factor. Unfortunately, a common bone of contention is the issue of who controls the commodities that fetch high prices on global markets. In the past, such valuable assets have often proved more of a curse than a blessing for Africa. A case in point are the conflict diamonds that played a key role in funding the civil war in Angola or the conflicts in West Africa. Other troubling examples are the oil that fuels conflicts in large parts of the Gulf of Guinea or the reckless exploitation of coltan and the valuable tropical timber in the east of the Democratic Republik of the Congo. And where have the proceeds from the exploitation of these valuable resources gone? Where have they gone? Have the leaders of the countries concerned always been guided by the general good rather than their own personal interests? It is also clear, however, that without customers eager to purchase these commodities there would be no market. That is why it is so important that a code of conduct for national and multinational corporations should be developed. It should address the question of trade in conflict commodities. The Kimberley Process certification scheme for diamonds is beginning to yield some positive results. And I pin high hopes on the multi-pronged strategy of the Publish What You Pay initiative, a campaign launched by non-governmental organizations and government actors, including the G8, to combat both the illegal trade in commodities and corruption.

Happily a broad consensus now exists that good governance and self responsibility play a key role everywhere in generating economic and social progress. But rhetorical demands of themselves achieve little. What is needed is for administration and government officials to conduct themselves accordingly in their day-to-day actions. Most importantly, every effort must be made to ensure that all sections of society participate fully in the political process, contribute to economic development and share in the benefits of economic progress.

These are points we must insist on time and again. But we must also be prepared to give African countries a greater role, for example, in the conduct of international affairs. In international bodies I believe Africa's voice ought to be heard more clearly. That needs to be taken into account in connection with the long overdue reform of the UN Security Council, for instance.

I want to mention that the request of Germany for the Security Council is justified. And I don't like the discussion about Kofi Annan, he is a fine person, and I hope that this discussion will end soon.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union states in Article 3 that one of its objectives is to "establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations". In paragraph 151 the authors of the NePAD strategy emphasize that "the first prioritiy is to address investors' perception of Africa as a"high-risk" continent, especially with regard to security of property rights, regulatory frameworks and markets". This hits the nail on the head. Progress in this area is the key to both greater domestic investment and investment from abroad. And you need both to fight poverty and create jobs for the young generation. Every country is called upon to examine what steps it could take in the light of its particular circumstances to address these problems. I would be interested to learn whether in every country - every ministry, every level of government, every village - sufficient work has been done to flesh out the details of the NePAD programme and implement it on the ground.

The UN has come to the conclusion that the Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved unless more money is made available. That is certainly true. Countries that have so far failed to meet the 0.7% target need to step up their efforts. That applies also to Germany. However, the special burdens we have shouldered in Germany since our contry regained its unity have made reaching that target particularly difficult. Nevertheless, I hope - and I certainly make the case for it - that despite our budgetary constraints Germany will progressively increase its annual development assistance. Yet I feel I must also point out that the willingness of our taxpayers to spend more on development cooperation depends also on whether they are confident their money is wisely spent and not diverted to other purposes. It is up to the development cooperation agencies and above all to the Africans themselves to ensure there can be no shadow of doubt on this score. It is important, too, that we work together to ensure that in the countries receiving such assistance the result is to support and not hinder the creation of a society whose members are keen to take responsibility for their own lives.

I am well aware that many African countries are still labouring under a heavy burden of debt. That these countries would like their debts to be forgiven is understandable and also in many cases justified. This discussion will go on. But I would draw your attention to a danger that could arise if debt forgiveness and new credit are viewed as automatic processes in a natural cycle. Take a moment to reflect on the fact that "credit" comes from the Latin word "credere", and that means to trust, to be trustworthy. It is in your own interest in Africa to develop a credit culture that in the long term will enable people here to obtain also personal loans and private finance. This means private creditors must be able to have confidence that their money will be paid back and therefore you need that credit culture. If you do not develop such a credit culture, it may never be possible to obtain the funds that are so urgently needed if poverty is eventually to be eradicated.

At the end of my trip to Africa I feel on the whole that a positive process of necessary changes and initiatives is under way, and I congratulate you on this progress. This includes the fight against poverty, even though I am afraid that this process is still too slow - also due to the lack of jobs in the private sector.

Here, let me pay particular tribute to the African women. I have met them as members of parliament, as high judges, as initiators of micro-finance schemes and as entrepreneurs. And we all know how at the same time they work tirelessly to care for their families. They deserve even more official support, and I am convinced that it is in Africa's interest to let women play a bigger role in public affairs, not least in parliaments and governments, and also in the Parliament of the African Union in particular.

On 18th-century maps of Africa those parts of the continent no one in Europe knew anything much about often bore the caption hic sunt leones - in other words, here there are lions, this is a dangerous place about which little is known. And the unknown was a source of apprehension, of ill-defined fear. Nowadays hic sunt leones could provide a colourful slogan for tourist ads. Nevertheless, for many people in my country Africa is still unfortunately a somehow unknown continent. Let us work together to ensure that we in the North do not learn about Africa primarily through reports of famines and asylum seekers, civil wars and child soldiers. We need to recognize - and this must be reflected in our policies - that both we and Africa inhabit one and the same world, a world in which everyone has responsibilities but must also have the opportunity to live their lives in peace and freedom from fear and want. Africa is the cradle of humanity, Africa has given the world so much - what after all would contemporary music, art and literature be without the contribution Africa has made? I am convinced Africa has much more to give to the rest of the world. From a genuine partnership all of us stand to gain.