Will such high-level experts miss another opportunity to chart an agenda for Africa’s effective take-off… A Yaounde declaration is highly awaited today.
Yaounde is awash with what the world has as brains in developmental matters. Jurists, economists, high-level policy makers, diplomats, politicians and, even…. Medical doctors (!) have since yesterday been at sick Africa’s bedside. The National Organising Committee of the 50th anniversaries of Cameroon’s independence and reunification offered the setting through an international conference dubbed “Africa 21” with the hope that Africa’s predicament can once again be revisited from a multi-sectoral angle, with the hope that lasting solutions or at least more effective options can be found as many African countries this year commemorate 50 years of self-rule.
The roll-call list at the opening ceremony of Yaounde 21, holding under the theme: Africa, An Opportunity for the world: Realities and Challenges” held at the Yaounde international conference centre included three guest Heads of State: Blaise Compaore (Burkina) Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon) and Fradique de Menezes (Sao Tome and Principé). The first ladies of Cameroon (Chantal Biya) and Burkina (Chantal Compaore) accompanied their husbands. Many leading lights in world decision-making and others who call the shots at various levels also responded positively to Cameroon’s invitation. Some noted personalities on the high table included Ali Triki of Libya who is the current President of the U.N General Assembly; Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary General of the U.N.; two former Prime Ministers of France – Messrs Alain Juppé and Michel Rocard; Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary General of the Commonwealth and Jean Ping, President of the Commission of the African Union. Leaders of the principal development agencies and from the world of finance were also handy and were expected to make very useful contributions when work went into plenaries and workshops later yesterday.
The eight personalities that took the floor were unanimous over one issue. From the Government Delegate to the Yaounde City Council Tsimi Evouna who welcomed guests to Yaounde to Dr. Jean Ping, who spoke last, there was agreement over the timeliness and the urgency of convening the Yaounde conference. Where unanimity was absent was on ways of getting Africa adopt developmental options that would be most beneficial to the continent.
For President Paul Biya, the question as to whether independence was conquered, won or awarded was a useless semantic issue. For him, the real question is what Africans have done with 50 years of independence (See full text of his speech published in this edition).
When president Ali Bongo Ondimba took the floor, his focus was essentially on Africa’s youth and the huge potential they have in taking the continent out of its problems of today. He called on Cameroon to take its rightful place as the locomotive of the Central African sub-region and pledged to provide all his support.
Other speakers notably the U.N. General Assembly President Ali Triki and the U.N. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro respectively addressed the issue of Africa’s absence in the UN decision-making caucus, notably within the security council and the need for the rest of the world to recognize and respect Africa’s contribution to world progress and cease from only considering the continent as an object of ridicule and curiosity.
The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Samalesh Sharma, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El Baradei and the President of the Commission of the African Union Jean Ping also addressed the opening ceremony.
Before participants broke into work within plenary sessions, Mr Ping offered a “flame of peace” to President Paul Biya for what he said was the African Union recognition for his peace efforts around the continent and more singularly the peaceful conclusion of the border dispute with neighbouring Nigeria.