ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN NIGERIA 21-28 APRIL
Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed New York for Nigeria on Saturday,
21 April. He was to attend the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases in Abuja the following week.
On his way to Nigeria, he stopped off in the United Kingdom and in Ghana. On arrival at Kotoka International Airport in Accra on Monday evening, 23 April, he was met, amongst others, by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, by Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs-designate, Alhaji Mustapha Idris, and by the United Nations Country Team, led by Alfred Sallia Fawundu, United Nations Resident Coordinator. Mr. Annan delivered a short statement and took questions from the media.
On Tuesday morning, 24 April, Foreign Minister Owusu-Agyemang called on the Secretary-General for a brief discussion. The Secretary-General then proceeded to the Castle for a meeting and luncheon with President John A. Kufuor. They discussed the political and economic situation in Ghana, as well as the United Nations' role there, and the situation in the region, especially in Côte d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General arrived in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, early on Wednesday afternoon, having travelled with President Kufuor on a special flight from Accra. The Secretary-General and President Kufuor were received at the airport by Nigeria's State Minister for Justice, Alhaji Musa Elayo Abdullahi. They reviewed a guard of honour and were greeted by a group of traditional African dancers. Upon arrival at his hotel, the Secretary-General met the Nigerian Information Minister, Jerry Gana.
Late on Wednesday the Secretary-General was briefed by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Peter Piot, and by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, K.Y. Amoako. The Secretary-General also met later with those executive heads of United Nations agencies who were present in Abuja.
On Thursday, 26 April, the Secretary-General addressed the opening session of the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases. He told African leaders that the AIDS crisis in Africa was a “continent-wide emergency” and that he considered the battle against it as his “personal priority”.
In his speech, he outlined five objectives in the fight against the disease: prevention; mother-to-child transmission; care and treatment; scientific
breakthroughs; and protection of those most vulnerable to the epidemic, especially orphans.
He told the delegates, "The war on AIDS will not be won without a war chest, of a size far beyond what is available so far.” At a minimum, he said, nations need to spend an additional $7 to $10 billion annually in the worldwide struggle against AIDS. That amount, he said, is a little more than 1 per cent of the world's annual military spending.
The Secretary-General also called, to enthusiastic applause, for a social revolution that would give more power to women, which would allow them to protect themselves and their children against HIV (see SG/SM/7779).
At the Summit conference hall, the opening ceremony started with a drama presentation by the National Troupe of Nigeria, followed by an introduction of the objectives of the Summit by A.B.C. Nwosu, Minister of Health of Nigeria. Three speakers, representing persons living with HIV/AIDS, persons living with TB, and youth then addressed the audience.
In a very powerful presentation, 17-year-old Abayomi Rotimi Mighty told African leaders: “You have the power to change the lives of millions of young Africans. You are the people who tell us to go to fight when there is war; you are the people that ask us to join rallies in election campaigns. Now we need you to fight with us against HIV/AIDS. We are the ones dying and wasting.”
Salim A. Salim, Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), OAU Chairman, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, and former United States President William J. Clinton also addressed the audience. Closing the Summit inaugural session, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria told his peers that “our responsibility as African leaders is to give hope to our peoples, and to find solutions to our plight.” The Summit, he said, was “an eloquent testimony of African leaders’ determination not to let their people down”.
Following the closure of the Summit’s morning session, Secretary-General Annan held a press conference, at which he told reporters that, although AIDS is not only an African problem, "If we do not win here in Africa, we are not going to win it anywhere else". On the issue of drug pricing, he said it was important to get medication to treat AIDS available to poor countries while at the same time improving health systems and dealing with prevention and education. He said that "we will see, in my judgement, a much more understanding application of agreements and acceptance that generic medication can be produced where it is going to save lives".
The Secretary-General's day had started early Thursday with a 7:30 bilateral meeting with President Sam Nujoma of Namibia. The focus of their 25-minute discussion was the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the prospect for stability in the subregion. The President pledged full support for the role of the Secretary-General and for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Both leaders also agreed that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is another “war” that Africa has to fight. Prevention and education play a major role in this fight, they said.
Thursday afternoon was dedicated to a series of bilateral meetings, including with the President of Togo and Chairman of the OAU, Gnassingbe Eyadema. They discussed access of HIV/AIDS drugs to Africans. The Secretary-General thanked President Eyadema for his facilitation of a dialogue between the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and opposition leader Alassane Ouatara. They also expressed concern about the proliferation of small arms in the subregion.
In discussions with President Gbagbo himself, the Secretary-General stressed the need for national reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire.
The Secretary-General also met with former President William J. Clinton of the United States. They discussed the AIDS issue, and they reviewed the way forward with emphasis on mobilization of resources. They also had a quick review of economic prospects and investment in Africa.
With Lansana Kouyate, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he reviewed the situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. They discussed the necessity of confidence-building measures among leaders of the Mano River Union countries and agreed that only through dialogue would peace come to the region.
Before attending a State banquet that evening in honour of Summit participants, the Secretary-General met with Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria. They reviewed in particular the situations in Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia/Eritrea.
On Friday, the Secretary-General reviewed a number of world situations and held internal meetings. He met with non-governmental organizations actively involved in the fight against AIDS, among them a very active representation of young people living with HIV/AIDS. The Secretary-General wanted to have first-hand contact with non-governmental organizations on the AIDS issue to hear their views and concerns. It was a direct exchange with those working at the community level, one of the priorities he had outlined in his call to action. The non-governmental organizations representatives focused on funding and how money gets used, access to drugs, and participation of civil society in national plans. They called for direct participation of non-governmental organizations in international processes. Some of them also criticized the heavy bureaucratic procedures of United Nations agencies.
Following that meeting, the Secretary-General left for Lagos on a private visit, but where he also met with United Nations personnel working in Nigeria. He departed Nigeria on Friday evening, arriving back in New York on Saturday morning, 28 April.
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