Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday was formally elected chairman of the 51-nation Organization of African Unity. He told national leaders that Africa must snap out of economic complacency if it wants to survive in today's economic climate.
"We are being condemned to perpetual dependence on a world market where we have little or no influence at all," he said in an inaugural speech at the annual OAU summit after being sworn in as successor to the outgoing chairman, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"There can be no isolation, there must be interaction," Museveni said. "This decade should close the era of institutionalized colonialism in Africa."
Most African leaders attending the conference talked about the need to bolster Africa's economic performance and their fear that the developing democracies of Eastern Europe would begin to swallow up international aid dollars that might have been marked for Africa.
"The developed West already appears to be shifting its attention more toward East European countries," said President Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, who opened the proceedings.
Mengistu recommended prompt formation of an African economic community and strengthening of subregional economic groups, saying the loss of international aid could be combatted only by greater cooperation between African nations.
Mubarak appealed to leaders of the industrialized nations meeting this week in Houston to pay greater attention to Africa's economic problems, warning that the continent's mounting economic plight is the greatest threat to peace and political security in the region.
Earlier Monday, Mengistu made an unprecedented appeal to East African leaders to work together to settle the region's civil wars. Four of the six nations whose leaders attended a special OAU session for East African nations--Uganda, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia--have been embroiled in civil wars.
Most of the East African nations have tense relations with their neighbors, swapping accusations that they are supporting each others' rebels. Repeated attempts at peace talks, some of them mediated by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who attended the OAU summit, have failed.
OAU leaders also welcomed an independent Namibia into the organization and provided Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress in South Africa, a forum to address Africans.