SANTA MARIA, Cape Verde — Brazil and Africa are united for the future, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told leaders gathered for a key summit in Cape Verde on Saturday.
Lula, visiting the summit on Cape Verde’s resort island of Sal at the start of an Africa tour, reiterated “a shared commitment” between Brazil and Africa, “for peace, stability and development… Today, we are united for the future.”
In turn the ten leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responded with a warm homage to Brazil, and Cape Verde President Pedro Pires called for Brasilia to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Lula has repeatedly stressed that Brazil — one of the last countries to abolish slavery in 1888 — is the world’s second-largest black country after Nigeria, with 76 million Afro-Brazilians out of a population of 190 million.
Commercial exchanges between Brazil and African countries have nearly tripled during Lula’s tenure.
The trip will be his last to the continent as Brazil’s president, because the constitution bars him from a third term, despite his sky-high 80 percent popularity ratings.
Lula will also visit Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and finally South Africa, where he will attend the World Cup final on July 11, despite Brazil crashing out to The Netherlands in the quarter finals.
The “new surge” of drug trafficking in the region was also on the summit agenda, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on Brazil for “strong collaboration” to fight drug and arms trafficking in West Africa.
In a joint statement, ECOWAS leaders also said they were “greatly concerned” by the appointment of General Antonio Indjai at the head of the army in Cape Verde’s neighbour Guinea-Bissau, three months after he led a mutiny.
They deplored the “lack of progress in the fight against impunity” in Guinea-Bissau, a hub for drug-running from Latin America to Europe, and urged President Malam Bacai Sanha, who was present at the meeting, to allow international efforts to help the country’s security.
Meanwhile, leaders praised the moves by Niger’s ruling military junta to return power to civilians, following the overthrow in February of President Mamadou Tandja as he sought to extend 10 years in power.
The junta has adopted a new electoral code, while Niger’s consultative council is due to study a draft constitution in July, and December 26 has been marked as the date for presidential elections.
Recognising the junta’s efforts, ECOWAS said it would allow Niger to observe ministerial-level meetings between West African states until March 2011, when constitutional legality should be back in place in Niger.