UN chief: Africa leaders should respect gay rights

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that African nations should stop treating gays as “second-class citizens or even criminals.’’

Ban told African leaders who gathered in Ethiopia’s capital for an African Union summit that discrimination based on sexual orientation “had been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long.’’

Ban said it would be challenging for Africa to confront this discrimination. There was no immediate response from African heads of states to Ban’s speech. Many African countries outlaw homosexuality, and many African churches preach against it.

Also yesterday, leaders at the summit urged member countries to boost intra-regional trade to help accelerate economic growth and development on the continent.

“African countries do not trade enough among themselves,’’ said Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission. “The growth of intra-African trade would lay the foundations for a stronger and more sustainable economic growth.’’

Trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total, compared with 47 percent in Asia and 70 percent in the European Union, according to the African Union. Increasing that percentage may help offset the impact of a slowdown in the euro region and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the Economic Commission for Africa said last Thursday. Growth on the continent slowed to 2.7 percent last year from 5 percent in 2011.

Ping urged faster economic integration on the continent and endorsed a plan by African ministers to create an economic bloc for central, western, and northern Africa that would resemble a proposed free-trade area in southern and eastern Africa.

The African Union summit is being held at the 54-nation body’s new $200 million headquarters. It was built by China State Construction Engineering Corp. on the ruins of Ethiopia’s former maximum security prison, known as Alem Bekagne, which in the Amharic language means “I have given up hope on this world.’’ The Chinese government funded construction, according to the African Union.


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