http://www.talkzimb abwe.com/ news/117/ ARTICLE/4828/ 2009-06-07. html
Africa should end conflicts, increase self-reliance: Mugabe
Sun, 07 Jun 2009
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Sunday urged African countries to end conflicts and increase self-reliance to boost development on the resource-rich continent.
Opening a two-day summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), President Mugabe said member states must put money into the group's Comesa Fund to help cut dependence on foreign assistance.
"The Comesa fund is critical as it is the only way out of our current dependence on support from external partners who in most cases attach strings to any support they give to our development programmes," President Mugabe said. "Let us contribute our own resources to the fund which can enable us to finance infrastructural development without any strings attached," he said.
Seven heads of state and government are at the summit including President Mugabe, who took over the helm of Africa's largest trading bloc in Africa, said the continent must raise its industrial capacity by exploiting its mineral resources, rich soils and human skills. President Mugabe also said Africa had to confront conflicts to realise its potential. "Strife has made us lose valuable manpower through death and displacement of people. It has also adversely affected our economies in regard to productivity and prosperity." "You certainly agree with me that conflict is a serious cancer in our region and indeed many parts of Africa," President Mugabe told the summit," he said, adding it was adversely affecting Africa's economic development. "Let us make Africa a continent of opportunity for all its people by eliminating conflict," he added.
The summit, in the resort town of Victoria Falls, will launch a customs union for its 19 member states stretching from Swaziland in the south to Egypt in the north, under which the member states will impose the same tariffs on goods from outside the region. President Mugabe also urged business leaders to explore investment opportunities in the region. He said while Africa had made some significant economic progress, it was lagging behind other continents in developing its transport network, energy and power generation, water resources, education and health facilities. Housing and general industrial capacity also needed attention, he said. "We have serious challenges ahead of us," President Mugabe said. "There is need for our organisation to work to speed up the implementation of our programme towards greater development and integration, " he said.
Under the Comesa deal, its 19 members will impose the same tariffs on goods from outside the region. Raw materials and capital goods will travel across borders without tariffs, while intermediate products will be taxed at 10 percent and finished goods at 25 percent. Most Comesa countries have lifted visa restrictions on travel within the bloc, with members ranging from tourist hotspot Egypt to conflict-torn nations, like DR Congo. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who is also attending the summit said, "The world is in recession and we need to find ways to survive."
The summit is being attended by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Djibouti President Ismail Guelleh, King Mswati III of Swaziland and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Zambian President Rupiah Banda, Seychelles leader James Michelle and deposed Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana, who appealed for the regional bloc to help him "get back his country".
Malawi and Burundi are represented by their vice-presidents. Non-Comesa members South Africa and Malawi are attending as observers. Other member states have sent high-powered delegations led mainly by their foreign ministers.
Zimbabwe, which is hosting the summit, and Comesa preferred to extend an invitation to Madagascar's former leader, Ravalomanana, expressing their disapproval of the army-backed leader, Andry Rajoelina, who seized power in March this year.
"I want to thank Zimbabwe and Comesa for inviting me. This means we are a a big family," said Ravalomanana. "What we now need is help and support from Comesa. "Everyone knows it was a coup and I am sure Comesa will make a commitment so that I will get back my country."
Ravalomanana was forced to surrender power in March by army-backed Rajoelina, a 35-year-old politician who had spearheaded months of street protests demanding the elected president’s resignation.