4 July 2002

Africa: AU a New Start - African Leaders

Durban — The African Union will bring a fresh way of doing things on the continent, African leaders promised the world on Thursday ahead of the inaugural summit of the new organisation.

Evidence of this was the barring of Madagascar from the AU following its disputed election, South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma told the last session of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers in Durban.

He also said the AU was gearing up to deal firmly with conflict on the continent.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said those who remained sceptical about Africa's future were misreading the mood on the continent.

Africans were determined to revolt against conditions defining them as objects of charity, she said at the same event.

OAU secretary-general Amara Essy said Africa was "not all bad news", adding the challenge of bringing peace was not insurmountable.

Executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, KY Amoako, expressed confidence that Africa's revival would not be stopped.

Africans should not be deterred by the response of the G8 countries to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Although last week's meeting in Canada did not bring a "cornucopia of funds" for priorities identified in Nepad, he said, there was enough interest among African governments, donors and the private sector for the programme to work.

The AU is to formally replace the 38-year-old OAU during a three-day heads-of-state inaugural summit in Durban, beginning Monday.

The Council of Ministers kicked off their closing three-day session on Thursday to wind down the activities of the OAU. It ratified the rules and procedures of the AU on Wednesday evening.

In his address to the body, Zuma said the OAU had laid a good foundation for the AU to foster unity and cohesion in confronting the continent's challenges.

"The forward march towards good governance and democracy is unstoppable and irreversible."

The decision of the OAU central organ to bar Madagascar was a clear indication of a new way of doing things, and showed Africa's commitment to good governance.

OAU officials announced the decision against Madagascar earlier in the week.

The OAU had resolved that the December 16 election which pitted Marc Ravalomanana against the incumbemt Didier Ratsiraka had not resulted in a legally constituted government for Madagascar.

Meanwhile, the South African goverment revealed the summit would cost taxpayers R97 million -- R37 million more than original estimates.

Deputy Finance Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa told reporters that some events, including the "spectacular" public launch at a Durban stadium, were not covered by the initial R60 million budget.

Some of the expenses could be covered by private sponsorships, he said.

Also on Thursday, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota issued a stern warning to striking municipal workers intent on interfering with efforts to clean up Durban ahead of the AU launch.

Security force members had been deployed to help ensure that this did not happen.

"The security forces of the country will act against anybody who will attempt to frustrate our efforts to clean the city," he said.

Preparations for the launch coincide with a national pay strike by the SA Municipal Workers' Union.

In Durban provincial union leaders have warned that they would not tolerate scab workers clearing rubbish in cities during the industrial action.

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