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By NBF News

IF the outcome of the meeting in France last week between leaders of the G8 and a select group of African countries, including Nigeria is anything to go by, human rights advocacy for Africans and the exercise of democratic rights will now be given more prominence in the conduct of the foreign policy of G8 countries in Africa.

Rising from their yearly meeting at the weekend in France, at a time of electoral transitions in Nigeria, G8 leaders and representatives of six African countries including Nigeria agreed to now highlight partnership between G8 and Africa, especially in the critical areas of human rights, democratic governance and sustainable development.

Following criticisms especially from international human rights groups like Human Rights Watch that leaders of the western world and developed nations normally sacrifice human rights issues and democratic governance at the expense of vested economic interests, the G8 statement said they were now ready to partner African leaders on highlighting rights and democracy.

According to the statement, while observing that Africa is now 'on the move,' 'the G8 and Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa, and the African Union Commission, highlight the importance of an enhanced partnership between the G8 and Africa.'

Although President Goodluck Jonathan had to cancel his participation at the G8 summit at the last minute due to air travel concerns because of the volcanic ash eruptions in parts of Europe, Nigeria was represented at the meeting held on Thursday and Friday, according to the statement released at the weekend.

The G8 leaders and the selected Africa countries whose leaders and representatives were present in France last week added that the continent 'is becoming a new pole for global growth, even if challenges to be addressed remain, particularly in the least developed countries. The G8 and Africa stand side-by-side during this key time of change.'

And in order to reach 'our objectives, we are determined to further promote together shared values, notably peace and human rights, democratic governance and sustainable development, and we will continue to endorse our respective and shared responsibilities in this regard, in a spirit of mutual accountability,' the statement noted.

Explaining in detail the new G8 focus on respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance, as well as gender equality in Africa, the statement noted that these issues 'are of key importance to sustaining development, stability and democracy.'

The statement added that the G8 leaders strongly welcomed the initiatives taken by several African countries to set up transitional justice mechanisms to address human rights violations, and encouraged that 'these actions need to be further developed.'

For example, the G8 leaders welcomed the African Union decision on speeding up the ratification of African governance and human rights instruments, in particular the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and also 'fully support the action taken by the African Union and African regional organisations to fight unconstitutional regime changes. We encourage further efforts to ensure the rule of law and the respect of human rights and to tackle impunity.'

Nigeria and ECOWAS played a leading and active role in the build-up that led to the forceful removal of Cote d'Ivoire's defeated President Laurent Gbagbo who had refused to relinquish power late last year after losing the presidential elections.

According to the statement, G8 leaders praised Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by Nigeria, saying 'we commend the steadfast support of the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations for the free and sovereign will of the Ivoirien people.'

Similarly, G8 leaders stated theirĀ  satisfaction with 'the overall progress' made towards stability and democracy on the continent, adding that several long-lasting armed conflicts had come to an end and democratic processes were becoming the norm and no longer the exception.

But they agreed with the African leaders at the summit last week that 'we need to address remaining challenges, notably respect for free and fair election results and for the rule of law, people's aspirations for increased democratic openness, and resolution of the persisting conflicts.'

On terrorism, the G8 leaders, Nigeria and other African representatives at the summit stated that 'current global threats such as terrorism, trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs, organised crime and piracy likewise, require strengthening national and regional initiatives in Africa with the support of the international community and increased global cooperation.'

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