Speech by Ambassador Wittig on "Bridges to Borders"

Aug 30, 2010

(check against delivery)

Excellencies,

Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me welcome you most warmly to the opening of our exhibit called "From Barriers to Bridges". I would like to extend a special welcome and sincere thanks to the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, Ambassador Tete Antonio, and the Chargés d'Affaires from the Permanent Missions of Mali and Burkina Faso, Ambassador Ami Diallo and Ambassador Paul Robert Tiendrebeogo, for joining us tonight. It is in cooperation with the AU and the colleagues from Burkina Faso and Mali that we have organized this exhibition on successful border management in Africa.

Africa's long history from colonization to the independence of its nations has left a legacy of disputed borders, which continue to contribute to conflicts and suffering of people. As we all know, it was the Berlin Conference that laid in 1884 the groundwork for today's map of the African continent. The conference convened by the first German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck ushered in a period of heightened colonial activity on the part of the European powers, while simultaneously eliminating most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

It is against this backdrop that the African Union Borger Program, which is at the core of this exhibit, cannot be overestimated. Initiated in 2007, the program aims to demarcate borders, increase regional integration, facilitate cross-border cooperation and develop institutional capacities.

Germany fully supports this program and contributes substantially to it through its German African Border Project. Our project is implemented by the German Technical Cooperation GTZ. It is currently active in six countries in East and West Africa where it supports the establishment and demarcation of borders and the promotion of border cooperation.

The border between Mali and Burkina Faso was the first to be established with the support of the project. In January 2010 the demarcation was finalized with the setting of the last border stone. Furthermore, the project strived to strengthen cross-border cooperation. Both elements are shown in the exhibition.

With their commitment to the demarcation process and cross-border cooperation Mali and Burkina Faso have set an extraordinary example. They have literally lived up to a process that led from barriers to bridges.

Also because of these experiences Germany will continue to support the African Union Border Program. I would like to encourage partners to also actively support the AU’s efforts, which we consider to be a milestone in the AU's commitment to peace building on the African continent.

Before inviting you now to enjoy the exhibition I would like to give the floor to Ambassador Tete Antonio.

Thank you.

© Stv