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January  04,2000

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OAU Peace Pole Inaugurated as IYCP Begins

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 4 (ENA) A Peace Pole dedicated to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in recognition of its endeavour to bring about lasting peace and harmony in the continent was inaugurated here Saturday in the precincts of the headquarters of the organization.

Unveiling the pole on the occasion of the International Year for Culture of Peace (IYCP), which is being celebrated throughout 2000, the OAU officer in charge of Education, Cultural and Social Affairs Development (ECSAD), Mr. Atef W. Ghabrial, said on behalf of Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the OAU, that the organization in response to the call of the UN General Assembly to observe IYCP as of January, erected the pole which is meant to serve as a "symbol and reminder of peace and harmony in Africa".

The 20th century was marked by numerous struggles for liberty, peace and justice in the face of conflicts and wars, Ghabrial said.  "At the dawn of the new millennium, however, we have the prospects of reflecting upon our past to shape our future, leaving behind legacies of inhumanity", he added.

"We should work hard towards realizing peace in the continent and pray for that according to our religious denominations.  Let's welcome the new year with the spirit of love and kindness," he went on.

Director of the UNESCO office here, Mr. Mgmady Lamine Conde, said through his message read by Ms. Brooke Ackley, a representative of the organization, that African peoples need to move "from a culture of war and violence to a culture of dialogue and understanding" as they proceed to shape the next generation.  "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in their minds that the defenses of peace must be constructed," the message quoted the founders of UNESCO as saying 50 years ago.

According to Mr. Conde, the choice of 2000 as IYCP by the UN was not accidental but rather well thought for "zero countries to start again treading a new path of peace with a new vision in the new millennium".

Religious leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Ethiopian Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane-Yesus in their peace message wished a happy and prosperous new year and new millennium.

"We have been praying for the avoidance of war and hate and for the prevalence of lasting peace in the continent as a whole.  Although the Ethiopian 2000 is yet 7 years away, we join people in other parts of the world in celebrating the millennium as not only the time of forgiveness, justice, pilgrimage and home coming for many refugees but also as a time of joy, peace and gratitude for God's goodness," they said.

The planning of the monument represents a ray of light and a renewed commitment towards achieving the most illusive, yet fundamental requirement peace-for the advancement if the continent, according to Indryas Getachew, Heinrich Boll Foundation representative.  "We hope the advent of the new millennium be an ear of radical change of attitude and heart in measurable qualities and not just a simple change in the digits of the calendar", he said, adding that "our speeches need to vibrate and move the underground of this vulnerable continent thereby spreading far and wide till peace becomes a collective reality for generations to come.   We have planted a seed of an apple that need to be continuously nurtured for global peace".

The event, which aimed at welcoming the new millennium with peace and motivating collective action for a culture of peace, however, was not attended by many of the expected officials.

An Ethiopian Artist, Bekele Mekonnen, built the monument which is said to take about 10,000 Birr and 4 months and depicts the culture, nature and diversity of Africa in the structure "as one climbs eye-view from its basis to its neck."

The signing of a manifesto proclaimed by Kidane Mehret School children to be presented to the UN in September, various cultural performances, songs of 'sounds of peace' by Dandi Boru School children, peace poem and candle dances by the Youth Hunger Ending Groups have added colour to the celebration.

Nile Insurance Company S.C., Heinrich Boll Foundation, United Religious Initiatives, UNESCO, Gian Franco Molinari and United Nations Association Ethiopia in collaboration with Hilton Addis and Ethiopian Airlines organized and sponsored the event.