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Famine meeting draws few African leaders

JOHANNESBURG – Most of Africa’s heads of state failed to turn up Thursday at the first African Union donor conference in Ethiopia to raise money for the Horn of Africa famine, leaving activists disappointed with pledges.

Of the A.U.’s 54 member nations, only the heads of Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Djibouti participated in the conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, along with the head of the transitional government in Somalia, the country hardest hit by famine. Critics accused African leaders of failing to make good on their rhetoric of finding African solutions for African problems.

Activists said African leaders pledged about $50 million, but much of it was “in kind” assistance, with little detail offered as to what services were being offered.

The African Development Bank, meanwhile, said it would donate $300 million for long-term development in the Horn of Africa.

A.U. leaders had been under fire for delaying the conference for several weeks because various presidents had conflicts in their schedules.

Nicanor Safula, spokesman for Africans Act 4 Africa, a coalition of civil organizations, said the failure of African leaders to appear at the conference as the Horn of Africa faced its greatest crisis in two decades was “disappointing and embarrassing.”


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