African leaders call for continentwide unity government

African leaders called Sunday for a unity government for their continent, after two days of meetings in the Nigerian capital.

"The necessity for eventual union government is not in doubt," said a statement issued at the end of a conference attended by the presidents of African heavyweight nations Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria, as well as the leaders of Senegal, Ethiopia and Ghana.

Calls for African unity have been heard for over a century and led to the creation in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, which became the African Union in 1999.

The AU aims to create a common market for the continent and has established the Pan-African Parliament, which is of mainly symbolic importance.

"The basic ingredients for forming a union government are in place," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said in an opening speech. "Unity is merely a means to the ultimate goal, which is the development and transformation of our people and continent."

Ghanaian President John Kufuor reminded the conference, however, that political instability and conflict remained major obstacles to eventual unity. Much of Africa is in the midst of violent unrest or civil war, with Sudan and Congo now seeing the worst effects of conflict.

"Regional peace and security are essential for integration. Without them, our energies are wasted," he said.

Kufuor said "the pursuit of economic integration must go hand in hand with the pursuit of political stability, everywhere on the continent.", AP reported. V.A.

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