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27 - 04 May 2005 
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The interim General Assembly of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (Ecosocc) of the African Union was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 29th March 2005. In attendance were representatives of civil society organizations and socio-professional groups from member states and observers from the African Diaspora.

Prof Alpha Oumar Konaré, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, noted that the launch came after the inauguration of the Pan-African Parliament in 2004 and dismissed skeptics who perceived Ecosocc as just another gadget.

He said there could be no consolidation of integration without the involvement of Africans in continental processes through civil society organizations. Prof Konaré stressed that Ecosocc should fight all forms of domination and exclusion, resist forms of globalization that flout democratic principles, and safeguard the environment.

Women and youth should play an increasingly important and prominent role in the affairs of Ecosocc, he said, while the Council should promote and protect the interests marginalized groups. Ecosocc will also tackle HIV/AIDS, polio and violence against women.

The chairman called on the new body to help the AU in reviewing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as reforming the United Nations. Prof Konaré urged Ecosocc to apply to itself the same standards that it applies to others, namely, democratic governance, transparency, accountability and reliance on its own resources. He further advised the Council to rely on the traditional African values of work, tolerance, consensus, solidarity, hospitality and kinship.

The chairman underscored that the membership diversity should act as a source of strength and not division, strife or disunity. Ecosocc should operate on the basis of, and strive for, a united Africa, he said. Although HIV/AIDS, conflicts and poverty continue to impede the continent’s development, the African Union represents a ray of hope: that Africa can take manage its condition.

He said the continent has all the resources required to overcome challenges. He said the seeds for African renaissance were sown in 1963 with the birth of the OAU (now AU), and were buttressed in 1999 with the adoption of the Sirte Declaration establishing the African Union. For this to happen, though, there is need for strong collaboration between governments and civil society.

Mr El Hajji Bamanga Tukur, the chairman of African Business Roundtable (ABR), said Ecosocc’s launch was an historic occasion and a recognition of the influence of civil society organizations. He said it is an African forum for popular participation that can complement governments and the international state system, which should be used to advance social development in Africa.

 Ecosocc is a “people’s Parliament” that will enable the AU to establish public-private partnerships and engage the private sector, Tukur said. Such a strategy of economic empowerment of the civil society is a prerequisite for freedom, he said, and forms part of the continent’s roadmap for peace, governance and socio-economic development. “You are not an African because you were born in Africa,” he told the audience. “You are an African because Africa is born in you.”

Interim Officials

Presiding Officer: 2004 Nobel laureate, Prof Wangari Mathaai (Kenya).

Deputy presiding officers: Maurice Tadadjeu (Central Africa), Fatima Zohra Karadja (North Africa), Charles Mutasa (South Africa), Ayodele Aderinwale (West Africa).

Meanwhile, a 15-member interim standing committee comprising three members from each geographical region was also established with the following as members:

Central Africa: Jean Collins Musonda Kalusambo, Julienne Mavoungou Makaya and Yvette N. Rekangalt.

East Africa: Zeinab Kamel Ali, El Hussein Abdel Galil Mohammed and Patrick Khayemba.

North Africa: Amany Asfour, Saida Agrebi and Ahmed Abdel Fattah.

 Southern Africa: Moses Tito Kachima, Joyce Nondwe Kanyago and Helder Francisco Malauene.

West Africa: Mama Koite Doumbia, Landing Badji and Omar Gassama.

By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer

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