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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 06:29 GMT
Uganda celebrates Afro-Arab unity
By Sarah Grainger
BBC News, Kampala

Yoweri Museveni speaking in London, 11 March 2008
Mr Museveni stressed the ability of Africans and Arabs to communicate
A meeting of youth leaders from African and Arab countries has been officially opened in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, by President Yoweri Museveni.

The Afro-Arab youth festival brings together more than 2000 delegates from 62 countries.

Seven years ago, the African Union decided that it needed to improve co-operation between Africa and countries of the Arab world.

This is the second such conference to be staged since then.

There is plenty on offer at this conference for the young delegates who have travelled here from locations as distant as Jordan and Senegal.


Those taking part range in age from 18 to 25. There will be musical evenings and a sports day will be held later in the week.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 29/01/2008
Muammar Gaddafi is expected to make an appearance

But there are also serious topics up for discussion, ranging from human trafficking and cross-border migration to drugs, HIV/Aids and the environment.

Unity is one of the main themes of this meeting and in his usual metaphorical style, Mr Museveni echoed that in his opening speech.

Participants were from "sister tribes", he said.

"You can speak many of the languages of the dialects even if they are not your own dialects. You can know what the other person is talking about."

"There is mutual intelligibility," Mr Museveni added. "But that fact is normally eclipsed by the propaganda of the reactionaries and their foreign masters, those for whom they work."

Shared history

Mr Museveni made several references to a shared African and Arabic history of colonialism, and called for people from both regions to work together to achieve common aims in the future.

Whilst acknowledging that there may be a diversity of opinion amongst the delegates, the organisers of the conference are stressing that it is an opportunity for young people from Africa and the Arab world to meet, interact and swap experiences.

The meeting will close on Monday when Libyan president and champion of African Unity, Muammar Gaddafi, is expected to make an appearance.

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