Guterres’ Africa Day message


African countries “demonstrated commendable leadership” battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but more nations across a continent where conflict prevails should heed the UN call for a global ceasefire to push back the virus.

Marking Africa Day (Monday, 25 May), Secretary-General António Guterres said the pandemic “threatens to derail progress” enabling countries to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and development targets in the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063.

The AU established a task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and appointed special envoys to mobilise international support, said the UN chief. Its Peace and Security Council took steps to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on implementation of peace agreements and reconciliation efforts.

Guterres noted the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention established a response fund and African member states undertook “robust measures to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate socio-economic impacts.”

He welcomed AU support for his global ceasefire call, an imperative reflecting the AU theme for this year “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”

“Armed groups in Cameroon, Sudan and South Sudan responded and declared unilateral ceasefires. I implore other armed movements and governments in Africa to do likewise.  I also welcome the support of African countries for my call for peace in the home and an end to all forms of violence, including against women and girls,: he added.

Politics and the virus

At least 20 African countries are scheduled to stage elections this year, some likely to be postponed due to the pandemic, with potential consequences for stability and peace, the Secretary-General noted.

“I urge African political actors to engage in inclusive and sustained political dialogue to ease tensions around elections and uphold democratic practices.”

Last week, the UN issued a policy brief outlining the impacts of the pandemic on Africa: “We call for debt relief and action to maintain food supplies, protect jobs and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.  African countries, like everyone, everywhere, should have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment.”

An opportunity now exists for African governments to shape new policies that bolster health systems, improve social protection and pursue climate-friendly pathways.