African leaders "must protect their people not themselves": UN chief

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meeting with H.E. Mr. Jacob Zuma (President, South Africa): Credit: UN

African leaders should never "cling to power" and need to "protect their people, not themselves".

That's the view of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing leading politicians from around the continent on Saturday, at the 26th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

In his final address to the Union (AU) as UN chief, he said it had been an "enormous privilege" to work with Africa's leaders and its citizens.

Matthew Wells reports:

With human rights the key theme of this year's summit, Mr Ban encouraged leaders to ratify commitments made on universal rights and women's rights in particular.

He said that leaders who stood by while their own civilians were slaughtered, needed to be held accountable, and singled-out his disappointment in the on-going factional conflict in South Sudan, which instead of bringing an era of stability and hope to the world's newest nation, had brought two years of "unimaginable suffering".

Other crises too needed urgent attention he said, welcoming the AU decision to deploy observers and a protection mission in Burundi.

The Great Lakes country has seen bloody instability since its president defied the constitution and ran for a disputed third term. Now fears are growing of a possible genocide.

Mr Ban remarked that 17 African countries were going to the polls in 2016, and those in power, bore special responsibility.

"Leaders should never use undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes to cling to power. We have all seen the tragic consequences when they do. Leaders must protect their people, not themselves.

I commend those leaders who committed to stepping aside and respect constitutional term limits. I call on all to follow their example."

At the end of a week when more cases of sexual abuse of minors by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have surfaced, Mr Ban implored countries to work with the UN to stamp out the scourge, and ensure "accountability and transparency."

And with violent extremism at the hands of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram spreading to capitals like Bamako, and Ouagadougou, he said a strong "rights-based partnership" between the UN and governments was vital.

Extremism flourishes "where rights are violated" he said, and where people are "marginalized and excluded."

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1'48"

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