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26.05.2007 General News

African Union Diplomatic Passport launched

African Union Diplomatic Passport launched

President J.A. Kufuor on Friday laid the foundation stone for the construction of a new Africa Union complex in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as part of events to mark the AU Day.

He was assisted by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Melees Zanawi, Wang Chao, Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce and Alpha Konare, President of the AU Commission.

At the colourful ceremony, President Kufuor who is Chairman of the AU, launched the African Union Diplomatic Passports to be used by all the Heads of State of the 53 member countries, officials of the AU Secretariat, renowned personalities from the continent and the diaspora.

President Kufuor also launched a VSAT communication project at the AU headquarters to enhance communication between the headquarters and other offices outside Addis Ababa and also making it possible for video conferencing among officials of member countries.

This year's AU Day celebration had the theme: "Let's strengthen Africa's place in the world through strategic partnerships."

The Day was set aside to commemorate the founding in 1963 of the AU's predecessor, Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU).

The AU succeeded the OAU in July 2002, with a focus to bring about sustainable economic development, good governance, eradicate poverty and end the continent's conflicts.

In Ghana, where the day was observed as a statutory holiday a flag-raising ceremony was held to commemorate the occasion.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, Mohammed Bin Labat, President Kufuor urged African leaders to rededicate themselves to work to turn the continent into a large expanse of peace and stability.

This, he said, will help to realise the dream of an African Economic Market, with the free movement of people, goods and services and the spread of prosperity as a tribute to African Unity and solidarity.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, and NEPAD Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, mentioned challenges such as under development, poverty and disease as some of the factors militating against the speedy realization of the noble objectives of the AU.

She therefore expressed the need to form credible partnerships to overcome these problems.

Ms. Botchway and Mr. Labat inspected a parade mounted by a detachment of the Ghana Airforce.

As part of the day, a national inter-denominational church service was held at the forecourt of Parliament House to pray for the realisation of the A U's vision.

Organised by Mission Africa Incorporated, a non-governmental organisation in collaboration with the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship Conference, the well-attended service was also used to pray for the restoration and development of the African continent.

Themed: "The Importance of Pan African Parliament (PAP) - How it will benefit the ordinary African," the service brought together people from various backgrounds including parliamentarians, the clergy, traditional rulers and students.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi-Hughes, underscored the importance of the PAP, which he said is an important continental institution to unite Africa, promote peace, security, stability and economic empowerment as well as good democratic governance.

He said for Africa to attain sustainable growth and economic empowerment, corruption must be tackled with all the seriousness it deserves, adding that PAP would create a platform to share ideas in the fight against corrupt practices in Africa.

He expressed concern about the lack of peace, security and stability, which he noted, is a major setback in the achievement of socioeconomic development in Africa, saying, "As I speak to you now, many lives are being destroyed through violent armed conflicts and organised crimes."

Mr. Sekyi-Hughes said the PAP is a platform to enable Africa combat the menace effectively, by collating views and expressions of Africans in order to come out with pragmatic solutions to ensure lasting peace, security and Stability.