Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, before daybreak on Saturday, 29 January.
The first official event on his programme on Saturday was the official inauguration of the UN House in Abuja, where he addressed United Nations staff.
“Teamwork is the only way we can and we will help Nigeria reach its objectives, and help the wider world to achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, he said. (See Press Release SG/SM/9699.)
While at the UN House, the Secretary-General had a one-on-one meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who formally handed over the building to the United Nations in Nigeria.
Joining that tête-à-tête a short while later was Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairman of the Africa Union Commission.
In the evening, the Secretary-General had a separate meeting with President Konaré during which they discussed the peace processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Somalia. Other topics included ways to improve the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, as well as the role of the African Union in peacekeeping, in particular in the Sudan and Somalia.
Sunday began for the Secretary-General with attendance at a prayer breakfast in honour of the participants at the African Union Summit hosted by the AU Chairman, the Nigerian President, before heading to the city’s conference centre for the summit opening.
“Africa has an indispensable contribution to make in ensuring that 2005 becomes a turning point for the continent, the United Nations and the world”, he told the delegates. He said Africa's leaders will have “an unprecedented opportunity” in September when all Member States of the United Nations would hold a Summit in New York to review the progress made in the five years since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration.
His speech focused on the relevance to Africa of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, as well as the report of the UN Millennium Project, which at its core is a challenge to the international community to regain its ambition for poverty reduction.
To realize the recommendations contained in the twin pillar reports of 2005 for the United Nations, he said, one key to success would be to forge an even closer relationship between the United Nations and the African Union.
“I attach the highest importance to nurturing these ties”, he said. “The United Nations now has a very close relationship with the European Union, including in the area of peacekeeping. We need at least as close a relationship with the African Union, and we must work hard to achieve it.” (See Press Release SG/SM/9698.)
The Secretary-General then gave a press conference at the summit site during which he briefed reporters on the main themes of his summit speech and the discussions on the various topics he was discussing with the leaders gathered in Abuja.
He mentioned THE Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as the struggle against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. He also flagged the importance for African countries to pursue active immunization campaigns against all childhood diseases, particularly polio.
Raising what he described as “an ugly stain left on these heroic efforts by the appalling misconduct of a minority of peacekeepers” in the Democratic Republic of Congo who had sexually abused and exploited Congolese children, the Secretary-General said, “The time has come to overhaul our entire training, disciplinary, and investigative regimes to ensure that we do not again experience this abomination in any of our missions.”
“This cannot stand. We cannot tolerate even one UN peacekeeper victimizing the most vulnerable among us”, he said.
“I have appealed to the 20 top troop-contributing countries to ensure that swift disciplinary action and, where warranted, prosecutions are initiated whenever their military or police are found to have committed abuses”, he said.
He took questions ranging from those on Iraqi elections, which had started only five hours earlier, to the crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan’s Darfur region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the Nigeria-Cameroon boundary dispute over the BakassiPeninsula, Security Council reform and international assistance to Africa.
Sunday afternoon, on the sidelines of the African Summit, the Secretary-General held five back-to-back bilateral meetings with Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, Niger’s President Tandja Mamadou, Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
On Monday morning, the Secretary-General had six bilateral meetings in a row. They were with the Presidents of South Africa, Egypt, Somalia, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The Secretary-General departed Abuja in the early afternoon for Yaoundé, Cameroon, where he was greeted outside the airport by an enthusiastic crowd –- many of them were wearing garments made of fabrics imprinted with images of their President, Paul Biya.
Virtually the entire visit to Cameroon was spent at the UnityPalace, where the Secretary-General held tête-à-tête sessions with President Biya. The visit followed up on his efforts to facilitate Nigeria’s and Cameroon’s resolution of their boundary dispute, including the BakassiPeninsula, following their acceptance of an International Court of Justice ruling of 2002.
He also attended an official dinner hosted by the President at his Palace.
The Secretary-General left Cameroon Monday night and arrived in New York on Tuesday morning, 1 February.