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: Obama talks rights, democracy at African Union headquarters

29th Jul 2015
: Obama talks rights, democracy at African Union headquarters

ADDIS ABABA, (AA): Wrapping up a five-day visit to Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke Tuesday in Addis Ababa, where he urged African countries to democratize, respect human rights and ensure the continent’s leaders abided by presidential term limits.

Obama made his appeal during an address delivered before African diplomats, investors, scholars and civil society representatives at the African Union’s ultra-modern, Chinese-built headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.

Obama also hailed Africa’s recent development drive, but asserted: “Progress also depends on democracy.”

“We all know what the ingredients of democracy are,” he said, stressing the need for Africa to do more than just hold elections.

“Democracy is not just mere elections,” he said. “When journalists are behind bars, then you may have democracy in name without substance.”

While Ethiopia had made significant progress by holding violence-free polls, he said, the country nevertheless had to give wider space for dissent and a free press.

Democracy, the U.S. president added, was taking root in numerous countries in Africa – he cited Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia – but it still remained out of reach for numerous people on the continent.

He also urged African leaders to abide by their national constitutions and refrain from attempting to extend their terms in office – a reference to recent events in Burundi.

Obama went on to call for lasting peace in war-ravaged South Sudan.

“By August 17, a deal must be made [between South Sudan’s warring factions],” he said – otherwise, he warned, the international community would be forced to take action.

The U.S. president also called for all-out support for the fight against militant groups in the region, such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, along with Daesh and Al-Qaeda in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We should call them by what they really are,” he said. “Murderers.”

Revisiting themes he had touched on earlier in his Africa tour, Obama also stressed the need to root out corruption and show respect for human rights, which he described as the “key to progress.”

 

Photo: AA

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