July 4, 2005

Gaddafi urges self-reliance at Africa summit

By Paul de Bendern

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafiurged African leaders on Monday not to go begging to a summitof rich nations this week, telling them to embraceself-reliance and reject conditional aid from the West.

"Begging will not make the future of Africa, (instead) itcreates a greater gap between the great ones and the smallones," he told the opening session of a summit of the 53-nationAfrican Union (AU) in Libya.

"We are not going to beg at the doorsteps to reduce debt... We are insulted constantly and we deserve it. We don't needassistance and charity. I would not accept that (conditions foraid)."

Gaddafi's message is unlikely to set the tone of thegathering, which is due to adopt a broadly favorable stance ona British-backed drive for more help for Africa to be presentedto a Group of Eight (G8) summit on Wednesday and Thursday.

While Gaddafi is the host of the meeting and a founder ofthe three-year-old AU, the organization is currently chaired byNigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who wants more democraticand accountable governments around the continent.

Obasanjo will be a key influence behind the wording of amessage that African leaders are expected to send to the G8summit later this week about rescuing the continent of 800million from poverty, war and disease, diplomats say.

AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako told Reuters: "We haverequested Western partners to expedite debt cancellation forthe whole of Africa by 2007.

"They should also improve the quality of the aid so that itis really helpful to poor African people."

Many critics of Western aid say it suffers a number ofdefects, principally that much of it goes to pay expensiveWestern consultants or that it is conditional on Africangovernments doing business with a donor country's companies.

More than 40 percent of Africans live on less than $1 aday, 200 million Africans are threatened by serious foodshortages and AIDS kills more than 2 million Africans a year.

A key parallel goal is to convince rich Western nationsthat African governments are well along the way to the AU'sgoal of ending despotism, war and corruption in order toattract foreign investment.

As it does at all its gatherings, the AU at the half-yearlysummit will target wars as a big barrier to growth on acontinent that has seen 186 coups d'etat and 26 major conflictsin the past half century.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the summit thatnations had a responsibility to protect people from genocide,war crimes and ethnic cleansing if their own governments failedto do so.


"The message is simple. The message is that the G8 shouldcancel the debts of all African countries," said CharlesMurigande, Rwanda's foreign minister.

"The problem is not to give finance. The problem is how wecan enhance and improve the African economy," said SudaneseForeign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.

Rock stars around the world sang for Africa on Saturday totry to pressure the G8 leaders into action. The G8 summit onWednesday and Thursday will be chaired by British PrimeMinister Tony Blair, who has put Africa at the top of theagenda.

There was no mention in the agenda of Zimbabwe, in keepingwith the AU's habitual deference to President Robert Mugabe.

But summit guests included European Commission PresidentJose Manuel Barroso, who has said Africa must stand with therest of the world in condemning Mugabe's crackdown on illegalshantytowns.

AU officials last week rejected calls from non-governmentalorganizations to intervene in Zimbabwe, saying the crackdownthere was an internal affair.

African leaders are also expected to call for thedismantling of trade barriers which prevent them getting accessto rich country markets, analysts say.

(Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom, William Macleanand Manoah Esipisu)