Relaymedia

Great Lakes: Leaders Commit to Peace

A declaration of commitment to end conflict in Africa's Great Lakes region was signed on Saturday in Dar es Salaam by 11 heads of state, but the protocols for implementing the declaration are yet to b
( [email protected] ) Nov 23, 2004 05:20 AM EST

A declaration of commitment to end conflict in Africa's Great Lakes region was signed on Saturday in Dar es Salaam by 11 heads of state, but the protocols for implementing the declaration are yet to be worked out.

"Sustained effort is now needed," Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's president and current chairman of the African Union, said.

He witnessed the signing along with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The meeting, known as the International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes region, marked the first time that all heads of state around the region had officially met on these issues.

"Leaders who have been divided for most of the last decade have come together for peace," Annan said.

He added that a regional approach to ending conflict was essential because individual peace processes would remain incomplete.

Leading up to the summit, national delegations produced a 14-page declaration that purportedly represents "a common vision" in the causes of conflict throughout the region, as well as on how to end it.

Still, Annan said, the declaration was based on compromise.

"No one has got everything they wanted from this process, but" he said, "everyone has got what they need: a real chance for peace, stability, democracy and development in a vast region - a region that is home to millions upon millions of people who deserve a better future.

"People of the region now have every reason to hope," he added.

From here, the 11 core countries are to begin a series of inter-ministerial meetings starting early in 2005 to agree on protocols and programmes of action to implement the declaration. The process is to culminate in a second summit of heads of state planned for later next year in Nairobi.

"It is in the months to come, as you strive towards collecting the dividends of peace through a comprehensive security, stability and development pact, that your commitment will meet its greatest test," Annan told the delegates.

Among other issues, the Dar es Salaam Declaration commits the leaders to build a Great Lakes region that is open to other regions of the continent "by building our cooperation on priority areas - peace and security, good governance and democracy, economic development, and regional, humanitarian and social issues".

Donors for the regional process, known as the Group of Friends, said they would "continue to assist" in seeking a solution to end the cycle of violence and poverty. However, speaking on behalf of the group, Canadian Senator Peter Stolley, said, "We are your partners in this process and we also have expectations.

"Sceptics may say the declaration is just a piece of paper. But political will for action and implementation can make a change."

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks