Home | News    Tuesday 21 March 2006

East Africa appeals for helps fight drought

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Mar 20, 2006 (NAIROBI) — East African leaders appealed for international help to combat a drought that is threatening millions of lives, but said they had the means to resolve long-running conflicts that keep the Horn of Africa locked in chronic poverty and instability.

Faced with dwindling funding, they pledged to "continue mobilising resources to provide relief supplies," to help 11 million people who face the threat of starvation due to a prolonged shortage of rain and massive crop failure.

"In this regard, we call upon the international community to be forthcoming with sufficient resources to assist our efforts," said a joint communique issued at the end of the seven-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit.

The participants said competition for resources in the region, home to about 180 million people, had worsened conflicts that have claimed millions of lives and caused deep suffering in the last 50 years.

Despite deadly fighting in western Sudan, Somalia and northern Uganda and festering tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea over an unresolved border row, the leaders said that the region had the wherewithal to reverse the situation.

"The region has the capacity to uplift itself from misery," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the summit, which was also celebrating the IGAD’s 20th anniversary.

"Over-internationalising" regional conflicts "will not bring solutions," Museveni said, citing Burundi as an example where Ethiopian and South African peacekeepers helped restore peace.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, the new IGAD chairman, called for a united front to battle the searing drought, the seventh to ravage east Africa since 1975.

"In order to address the challenges effectively, we need to detail our cooperation and develop concerted sub-regional approaches and strategies that will create and environment favourable for socio-economic development," Kibaki said.

The European Union (EU), a strong east African partner, urged the region to fight a vicious cycle of poverty and scale down instability, whose effects are felt across Europe.

"There are growing concerns back in Europe on the fallout of this chronic cycle of poverty and instability. We feel the consequences of large number of migrants and refugees and the risk of the spread of trafficking and terrorism in the region," EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said.

Michel announced a five million euros (about 6.1 million dollars) to help millions of people in Kenya suffering from drought.

Museveni called for insurance for people affected by famine and to enhance regional trade as a means to stave off the effects of the scorching drought.

"We need and we can work together to insure this area against these vicissitudes ... Since there are insurance policies, why don’t we have insurance policies against famine in Africa?" Museveni added, two weeks after UN announced the world’s first-ever insurance cover for humanitarian emergencies in Ethiopia, in the event of extreme drought.

Michel told the region to help Sudan implement a January 2005 peace deal and press Somalis to seal a 15-year-old power vacuum, that has sparked fears of terrorism, piracy and arms smuggling, futher destabilising neighbouring states.

"These processes are fragile and cannot be sustained without a strong regional strategy," Michel said.

The comminique expressed "satisfaction" in the implementation of Sudan’s north-south peace deal, but urged the international community promptly to deliver 4.5 billion dollars that was pledged at the Oslo conference last year.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Beshir pledged to restore peace in Darfur, where 300,000 people have died and some two millions others displaced, but rejected plans to deploy UN peacekeepers.

In addition, they called on the UN to lift an arms embargo on Somalia to enable a formation of a national force.

African leaders and Swedish Foreign Minister Annita Sode told Ethiopia and Eritrea to turn down their belligerent rhetoric and work towards a final resolution of the border row that has threatened to erupt into a full-scale war.

"We strongly believe that there is a window of opportunity to resolving the simmering tension," Kibaki said.

The summit was also attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Somalia’s Abdullahi Yusuf, Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, Sudan’s Omar el-Beshir while Eritrea was represented by Agriculture Minister Arefaine Berhe.

(ST/AFP)

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