In a message to the African Union’s (AU) annual summit in Khartoum, delivered by his Special Adviser on Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, Mr. Annan said, “I welcome the decision to make ‘education and culture’ the theme of this Summit.“Education is a fundamental human right and a powerful vehicle for promoting social advancement, economic well-being and political stability,” he noted. “Culture, while rooted in particular histories, traditions and values, can also be a potent force for cultivating dialogue, tolerance and mutual understanding among the world’s people. It is crucial that these two domains be given the importance they deserve.”He underscored the many political changes taking place in Africa. Huge challenges remain, as exemplified by the tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the conflict in northern Uganda and the violent disturbances in Côte d’Ivoire which could entail “more rough patches ahead” requiring the strong support of the international community.Referring to the peace agreement for southern Sudan signed in Naivasha, Kenya, Mr. Annan said: “In Sudan, last year was both momentous and tragic: momentous in what was achieved in Naivasha, yet tragic that this feat, despite high hopes, was not translated into similar successes in Darfur and Eastern Sudan; momentous in the return of Dr. John Garang to Khartoum, yet tragic that he should perish just weeks later; momentous in the hope that inspired many refugees and internally displaced people to start returning to their homes, yet tragic that people in Darfur are still being forced to flee theirs.”Although destructive conflicts persist, their number has decreased and peaceful democratic governance has taken root in African several countries. Among these he listed Burundi, where the transitional process has reached a successful conclusion, auguring well for the future of the entire African Great Lakes region.There have also been successes for Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, he said. A peaceful change of leadership took place in Tanzania, along with progress in the Somali national reconciliation process and the strengthening of democracy and economic growth in Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius and South Africa. A landmark vote in Liberia elected the first woman President of an African State.Mr. Annan said the UN and the AU have a broad common agenda. “The United Nations will continue to be your partner in strengthening African peacekeeping capacity, in pursuing balanced development, and in generating real improvements in the lives of ordinary men, women and children across the continent,” he told participants.