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The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"It's hard to see how an African union will mean much in practical terms, at least in the short term"
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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 05:59 GMT 06:59 UK
Annan blames African leaders
Group shot at Lome
Annan accuses African leaders of mismanaging the continent's riches
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the political leaders of Africa that they are to blame for most of the continent's problems.



We have mismanaged our affairs for decades, and we are suffering the accumulated effects

Kofi Annan
Mr Annan - who is himself from Ghana - said Africans were suffering because they themselves were not doing enough to invest in policies that would promote development and preserve peace.

He told a summit in Togo of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) that Africa was the only region where the number of conflicts was increasing.

Mr Annan also pointed out that 33 of the world's 48 least developed countries were African.

'Plundered riches'

The mineral riches that Africa has in abundance, Mr Annan said, were being misused.

annan
Annan: Africans are not doing enough to promote development
"Instead of being exploited for the benefit of the people, they have been so mismanaged and plundered that they are now the source of our misery."

Mr Annan said that Africans bear much of the responsibility for the deterioration of the continent's security and the withdrawal of foreign aid.

"This is not something others have done to us. It is something we have done to ourselves. If Africa is being bypassed, it is because not enough of us are investing in policies which would promote development and preserve peace," he said.

"We have mismanaged our affairs for decades, and we are suffering the accumulated effects."

Closed door talks

At the OAU conference in the Togolese capital, Lome, African leaders will on Tuesday hold talks behind closed doors following Monday's opening ceremonies.

Colonel Gaddafi
Gaddafi: Grabbing attention in Lome
One of the most important subjects on their agenda is the proposal to form an African union, a pan-African body with strong political and economic ties intended to eventually take the place of the current OAU.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips reports from Lome that African leaders fear their continent is becoming increasingly powerless in a tough global economic environment.

African Union?

Many believe that unless Africa can talk and act with greater cohesion, it will continue to be virtually ignored by the richer countries.

Beyond this general consensus, which is shared by all the 30 or so heads of state here in Lome, there are considerable differences about the best way to proceed.

At one end of the spectrum is Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has grabbed much of the attention. Colonel Gaddafi raised the idea of an African union loosely modelled on its European counterpart at a summit in Libya last year.

But many of the more powerful African countries, like Nigeria and South Africa, are wary of losing their own regional influence and concerned at any initiative that would weaken their sovereignty or ability to act independently.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Middle East
Gaddafi steals Lome limelight
09 Jul 00 | Middle East
Gaddafi's warm reception
12 Jul 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
On the trail of Colonel Gaddafi
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