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African leaders too soft on peers: PM

LAGOS, October 10 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has blasted African leaders’ fear of criticising each other saying it was stifling the continent’s progress towards democracy.

"The African Union has fallen short, failing to condemn brutal regimes and sham elections, including the second round of elections in Zimbabwe. This has now become the norm.

"But we should not be surprised at the AU’s failure to stand up for democracy, many of our nations’ leaders have some skeletons rattling loudly in their cupboards," Mr Odinga said.

He condemned what he called African leaders’ "diabolical conspiracy of silence and complicity in refusing to condemn their neighbours," which had helped some of the continent’s infamous dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda’s Idi Amin and Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda.

"Time has come when we must turn our backs on that negative history," he said, adding "we must confront our demons."

Mr Odinga, who spoke at a silver jubilee lecture for one of Nigeria’s major dailies, The Guardian, said while there had been progress on the continent there was still much to be done.

"The African Union is not doing sufficient in Darfur, in Somalia and other troubled spots in Africa," Mr Odinga said.

"The AU needs to be more engaged,"

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"The Darfur problem is a sore on the conscience of African people… Kenya’s security is a completely compromised by the insecurity in Somalia," he said.

He also criticised the AU for failing to condemn the violence-wracked second round of elections in Zimbabwe in which President Robert Mugabe stood against himself.

He said Mugabe has "dragged the name of Africa into the mud."

"Mugabe turned out to be a brutal dictator. He has turned to be grotesque and a parody of a leader," he said.

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