Africa must define what is in its own interests and develop a peaceful and prosperous continent, South Africa’s ex President, Thabo Mbeki has told Ugandan legislators.
Thabo Mbeki who is in Uganda under the auspices of the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel is leading a delegation seeking views on the integration of the Horn of Africa.
The Horn of Africa includes: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Before meeting the MPs on Tuesday, Mbeki paid a courtesy call on the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.
During a consultative meeting with members on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mbeki underscored the need for the Horn of Africa member states to find lasting solutions to issues of economic stability, peace and security, and the political question.
He said views of the legislators would inform a written document, which will define the future of the Horn of Africa.
“One of the objectives of the AU is to silence guns in the Horn of Africa by 2020. This process needs to be accelerated,” said Mbeki.
He added that the panel is seeking to establish mechanisms to manage diversity, which he said is one of the root causes of political instability in some countries.
“Sudan broke into two due to failure to manage diversity. This can be addressed if we as member states agree,” he said.
Mbeki said that whilst some countries in the Horn of Africa are blessed with natural resources including oil, gas and minerals, he warned that such resources will not be of any economic benefit, if not utilized.
“The integration of the Horn of Africa must address such issues. How do we organize natural resources to have a positive impact,” said Mbeki.
Members advised the delegation to utilise the existing regional bodies including the East African Community, if the panel is to achieve the agenda of integrating the region.
Hon. Lyandro Komakech (DP, Gulu Municipality) asked the AU to focus on enhancing regional integration through strengthening neighboring countries economically, a move he said will automatically silence guns.
“Looking at the current situation in the Horn of Africa, there is the Northern and Southern, that is where we should concentrate. How do you divide the two and deal with their different challenges,” he said.
Hon. Jacquiline Amongin (NRM, Ngora district) called on the panel to consider infrastructure development as one of the means to facilitate economic integration.
“If Ugandans are able to move their goods freely to Sudan; if people of Somalia and Djibouti can move freely within the Horn of Africa, you will find that we shall have a shared market,” said Amongin.
Hon. Abdulatif Sebaggala (Ind., Kawempe North Division) advised the panel to consider promoting dialogue amongst warring countries as a way of achieving the objective of political stability.
“Insecurity is largely caused by political instability. Is consideration being made to organize dialogue in countries which are facing insecurity,” he asked.
Hon. Jack Wamanga Wamai (FDC, Mbale Municipality) raised concern over Africans who capsize in the Mediterranean Sea, while others are kidnapped and sold into slavery. He wondered what the AU was doing to resolve the issue.
The legislators commended Mbeki as a patriot who together with the late former South African President, Nelson Mandela, sacrificed his life to fight apartheid in their country.
The Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Hood Katuramu (Ind., PWD Western) described Mbeki as a person who worked for tolerance against revenge.
He assured the delegation that Parliament would support the agenda of the AU, saying that Uganda has contributed to regional integration through promoting peace and stability in the region.
The AU High Level Implementation Panel is visiting all the countries in the Horn of Africa, and has met President Yoweri Museveni and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Sam Kutesa.