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Africa must silence guns now, stop preventable deaths – Buhari

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*Pledges improved women empowerment

“Rather than facing the developmental challenges confronting us, we are spending our scarce resources killing our children and inflicting unspeakable horrors and unimaginable hardship.” – Buhari

African leaders in Addis Ababa

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday in Addis Ababa that the African Union’s (AU) vision to silence the guns and reduce preventable conflict-related deaths in the continent by 2020 must be achieved “now”.

Speaking at the 26th AU summit, President Buhari decried the use of scarce resources in Africa on armed conflicts rather than economic and social development of the continent.

The President challenged fellow African leaders to engage decisively with the people and government of South Sudan and Burundi to bring the conflicts they face to a speedy end.

He added that African leaders must also forge a united front to rid the continent of the scourge of terrorism and face together with determination the noble goals of Agenda 2063, as espoused by the AU.

“We have all shed blood for Africa to be free, but the irony is that, today, we are now killing each other.

“Rather than facing the developmental challenges confronting us, we are spending our scarce resources killing our children and inflicting unspeakable horrors and unimaginable hardship on our brothers and sisters.

“That is truly a tragedy and it must stop. Enough is enough!

“Within the framework of the African Union, we have to, as a matter of urgency, reach a consensus on how to silence the guns. Not by 2020 but now. Why must we wait? We must say “NO” to wars and conflicts on our continent,’’ the President said.

Emphasising Nigeria’s determination to wholly defeat terrorism and bring the war against Boko Haram to an end, President Buhari said Nigeria would continue to partner with other member states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and Republic of Benin, through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

He reaffirmed that Nigeria will soon fully redeem its pledge of $100m to enhance the operations of the Task Force, having released the sum of $21m to the task force in June last year.

The President also used the occasion of his address to reiterate Nigeria’s commitment to the unity, peace and prosperity of the continent.

“We in Nigeria have always been attached to the idea of African unity.

“During the struggle to win freedom for our brothers and sisters in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, Nigeria was considered a front-line State, although we were not geographically on the frontline.

“This was because we took to heart the words of President Ben Bella of Algeria that we all had to die a little for all our brothers and sisters on the continent,’’ he said.

President Pledges Improved Budgetary Allocation to Ministries Handling Women-Related Issues

In another development, President Buhari has said that his administration will continue to guarantee the economic rights of women by increasing budgetary allocation to projects by Federal Government ministries, agencies and departments specifically targeted at improving the lives of women.

Speaking at the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on Saturday night in Addis Ababa, President Buhari said that the Federal Government under his watch has demonstrated its commitment to the rights of women by appointing women of proven integrity to key positions within the cabinet.

“We have increased the budgetary allocation of Ministries that have direct bearing on the lives of women particularly health and education, with greater emphasis on girl-child education.

“As you all know, the terrible activities of the Boko Haram Sect led to destruction of thousands of lives and property in the North Eastern part of Nigeria displacing millions from their respective homes, most of who were women and children and are now at various IDP Camps across the country.

“In order to fully restore and protect their rights, Government is in the process of massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement of the affected victims in the North Eastern part of the country with the ultimate goal of restoring normalcy in full to that region as well as improving the well-being of the affected persons,’’ the President said.

President Buhari welcomed the AU’s decision to declare the year 2016 as the “The Year of Human Rights in Africa with Special focus on the Rights of Women”.

He said Nigeria has amply demonstrated its commitment to issues relating to rights of women by upholding several human rights treaties and conventions specifically targeted at women.

“In guaranteeing the economic rights of Women, the Federal Government of Nigeria is embarking on massive employment programmes that will promote small and medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), in order to provide succour to our teeming Women and Youth populations,’’ he said.

President Buhari also used the occasion of his address to the AU summit to congratulate President Idris Deby Itno of Chad on his election and assumption of office as the Chairperson of the African Union for 2016.

“No doubt, the appointment is a clear attestation of the confidence reposed in him to steer the ship of our continental organisation at this time, by colleague Heads of State and government,’’ he said.

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