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A special adviser to the United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan has said African countries should refuse to repay their foreign debts. Mr Annan's economic adviser Jeffrey Sachs first called on developed countries to cancel Africa's debts.

But failing that, he said Africa should ignore its $201bn (£109bn) debt burden. Economic analysis, he said, had shown that it was impossible for Africa to achieve its development goal of halving poverty if it had to repay the loans.

How much progress has been made on debt relief? Mr Sachs made his comments on the eve of a summit of the heads of state of the African Union in Ethiopia.

"The time has come to end this charade," he said. "The debts are unaffordable. If they won't cancel the debts I would suggest obstruction; you do it yourselves."

Mr Sachs is special adviser to Kofi Annan on global anti-poverty targets. He called on the developed world to double aid to Africa to $120bn a year in order to meet commitments made in 1970. (Source: KBC)

Cameroon

A three-day training seminar on the eradication of racism and xenophobia in Central Africa just ended in Yaounde.

Organized by the U.N Sub-Regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, the seminar is co-chaired by the Director of the Centre, Ambassador Teferra Shiawl and the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in charge of the Commonwealth, Ndion Ngute.

For three days, participants at the seminar would be drilled on human right laws particularly on the role of the civil society in the implementation of the Durban plan of action, following one of the resolutions taken during the Durban World Conference in August 31st to September 8, 2002.

Speaking while presiding at the opening ceremony, Minister Ndion Ngute lauded the efforts of the civil society and NGOs involved in human rights. He called on them to reflect on the strategies for a better follow up of the Durban resolutions, and its implementation. He pointed out that the government is preoccupied with the maintenance of peace in the country. "The seminar would help to sensitize the population on the importance of consolidating peace in the Sub-region," he explained.

Teferra Shiawl, on his part, said Cameroon is a good example of a peaceful environment. He explained that the country has successfully consolidated peace irrespective of its diversified ethnic groups. "The Durban plan of action calls for every measure to fight racism", he said. Adding that, racism leads to underdevelopment. "Consequently, the malaise must be cut right from its roots", he emphasised.

Ethiopia/Somalia

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has closed a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia where an estimated 250,000 Somali refugees once lived, after the last 719 inhabitants left the settlement to return home to the self-declared autonomous republic of Somaliland. The last refugees left Hartishek camp on 30 June in a convoy of UNHCR vehicles, heading for Hargeysa. They were being accommodated in a transit centre in Hargeysa while the authorities looked for an area to resettle them permanently, UNHCR said in a statement. (Source: IRIN)

Nigeria

An estimated 800,000 Nigerian children became orphans in 2003 as a result of the death of their parents from HIV/AIDS related complications.

A release signed by the Communication Officer of the United Nations Children's Fund, (UNICEF), Mr. Geoffrey Njoku quoting statistics from a report titled, "Children on the Brink," stated that 5.2 million children lost one or both parents in Sub-Saharan Africa last year, while by 2010, the region will be home to an estimated 50 million orphaned children.

The biennial report released by UNICEF, UNAIDS and USAID gave the latest statistics on historical, current and projected numbers of children under age 18 orphaned by AIDS and other causes.

"Children need more than inspiring words. They need leadership that touches their lives directly. They need Action that is taken to scale action that grows out of a unified and targeted strategy that will protect, respect, and fulfill the hopes and dreams of all orphans," said the authors of the report.

UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy said the report noted that it is best to keep parents alive and healthy, while Assistant Administrator of USAID, Dr. Anne Peterson said the report underscores the critical importance of caring for children affected by AIDS. (Source: This Day)

Zambia

Youths cannot be future leaders if they are not given the future and leadership, observed veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga.

Mwaanga recently said having participated in national development and achieved so much at a very tender age, he had an obvious bias towards youth participation in the affairs of the country.

"I have heard far too many statements telling youths that they are future leaders, but they can't possibly be future leaders if they are not given a future and leadership," Mwaanga said. "It is my strong view that youths must be allowed to play an important role in all aspects of national life because of their freshness of ideas, vitality and energy."

Mwaanga said he had met far too many youths who look up to him because of his achievements at a tender age. He said such youths look up to him with a growing sense of frustration at not being given the opportunity to excel in their various skills. He said there was growing youth unemployment, a time bomb which should not be ignored.

"I sense a lack of insensitivity to the plight of the youth on the party of our policy makers who don't regard youths as equal partners at the lunch table who are not allowed to get onto the gravy train," Mwaanga said. "I hope we will pay a lot of more attention to problems of the youth if we are to redeem ourselves to youth problems. We can no longer afford to marginalise the youth. We can only do this at our own peril." (Source: The Post)

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