United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Addis Ababa from New York on Friday evening, 8 February.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General met with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission. They jointly chaired a meeting of the Commissioners of the African Union and senior officials from the United Nations Secretariat. Mr. Guterres and Mr. Mahamat then held a press encounter. The Secretary-General said that strategic cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations is a fundamental asset for the work of the United Nations in the world.
Pointing to recent positive political movements and the recent peaceful elections in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General said winds of hope are blowing across Africa. “I believe”, he added, that “Africa is becoming an example, an example where it is possible to solve conflicts and it is possible to prevent conflicts.”
The Secretary-General then visited the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and held a town‑hall meeting with staff. While there, the Secretary-General met with a number of girls who were participating in a project, the African Girls Can CODE Initiative, which is a programme of UN-Women and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The four-year programme is designed to equip young girls with digital literacy, coding and personal development skills. The Secretary-General encouraged the girls to continue with their scientific education.
Back at the African Union, the Secretary-General met with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway. The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister discussed a range of issues of mutual concern, including multilateralism, climate-related issues, cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, as well as sports and development.
During the day, the Secretary-General had bilateral meetings with the outgoing Chair of the African Union, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and the incoming Chair, President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of Egypt. He also met with Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, President of Somalia; Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso; and Joseph Dion Ngute, Prime Minister of Cameroon.
Back at the hotel, the Secretary-General delivered remarks at the Africa Leadership Meeting on Investing in Health, hosted by President Kagame. Investments in health, and more broadly, in the continent’s human capital, are among the best steps we can take to ensure the success of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Mr. Guterres told the gathered leaders. (See Press Release SG/SM/19458.)
He called for expanding the fiscal space for health and reducing fragmentation of support from donors. “I call on all partners to ensure successful replenishments of the multilateral global health financing mechanisms,” the Secretary-General added.
During that day, he conducted interviews with the BBC World Service and France 24. On Saturday evening, he attended a gala dinner hosted by Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
On Sunday morning, at African Union headquarters, the Secretary-General had a series of bilateral meetings: Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Hage Gottfried Geingob, President of Namibia; Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia; Béji Caïd Essebsi, President of Tunisia; and Faustin Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic.
The Secretary-General then joined the Heads of State and Government of the African Union at the unveiling of a statue of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I.
In remarks delivered on Sunday at the opening session of the thirty-second Ordinary Session of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, whose theme was “Year of the Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa – Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacements”, the Secretary-General underscored his determination to forge ever closer ties between the United Nation and the African Union. “Indeed, there has been a quantum leap in our strategic cooperation with the African Union,” he said. (See Press Release SG/SM/19459.)
The Secretary-General saluted Africa’s inspirational leadership in finding durable solutions to forced displacement. Africa has a gold standard for solidarity with refugees and internally displaced people, he said. He outlined the shared agenda of the United Nations and the African Union on issues relating to peace and security, development and climate change.
Following a luncheon hosted by Chairperson Mahamat of the African Union Commission, the Secretary-General continued with his series of bilateral meetings, including with Prime Minister Ahmed of Ethiopia; Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda; Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya; Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa; and Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus, Prime Minister of Sao Tomé and Principe.
In a press conference, the Secretary-General said many see Africa as a continent of problems, but the United Nations sees it as a continent of hope and opportunity. While recognizing that there are many problems and unsolved conflicts, there are now signals in Africa that conflicts can be resolved and that conflicts can be avoided.
Answering a question about the causes of migration from Africa, the Secretary-General said that issues of economic development, human rights and governance are factors in driving people to leave home.
Asked about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General that we now must look ahead to support the Congolese institutions in ensuring stability and progress in the country, and at the same time, an internal dialogue and an inclusive way of devising Congolese political life, so that Congo can succeed in solving its problems and can also improve the living conditions of its people.
Following the press conference, the Secretary-General met with Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, former Vice-President of Uganda and now one of the Co-Chairs of the African Union’s FemWise, a group of women mediators. She explained their role in supporting the ongoing preventive and peace stabilization efforts of the African Union, as well as their efforts to get younger women involved in peace processes early on.
The Secretary-General agreed that women’s voices are needed to create lasting peace. During times of conflict, women’s participation in resolving conflict and negotiating peace is especially important to ensure that their rights are protected, experiences recognized and that peace lasts. The Secretary-General said he supports continuing links with African Union and United Nations mediators.
The Secretary-General left Addis Ababa on Sunday evening and returned to New York, where he arrived on Monday afternoon.