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Passes 25 decisions
The Heads of State and Government meeting at the 18th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from January 29 to 30, 2012 ended deliberation by adopting 25 decisions, one resolution and two Declarations. Amongst the decisions taken was the suspension of the elections of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, alongside with the eight Commissioners. This came after a long debate as none of the candidates for the chairmanship could obtain the two third of the total votes needed as stipulated in the AU constitution.
The summit on the theme “Boosting Intra-African Trade” resolved that an ad-hoc committee be set up as soon as possible to look into the election matter ahead of the next AU summit scheduled for June 2012 in Malawi. The ad-hoc committee is expected to meet in March 2012. To that effect, the mandate of the present Commission was extended until the next AU Summit.
New kids on the block
During the closing ceremony, Dr. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, the newly elected President of Tunisia presented the vote of thanks to the Assembly, calling on the need for peace and unity on the continent. To the Chinese Government he extended his gratitude for offering the AU a magnificent conference center.
Taking the floor later, Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Kieb of Libya’s National Transitional Council, discussed the post conflict reconstruction measures underway in Libya. He thanked all those who helped in the democratisation process of the country.
However Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe upon his return from the 18th summit in Addis Ababa to his country condemned fellow African leaders for recognizing Libya’s National Transitional Council. Mugabe accused African leaders who backed Libya’s former rebels and NATO’s bombardment of Libya that helped lead to the killing of Gaddafi, a long-time Mugabe ally, according to media reports from Zimbabwe.
“The African Union didn’t even protest the NATO action,” complained Mugabe. He also said it was “un-procedural” for the AU’s Peace and Security Council to make the decision to recognize the NTC instead of the leaders who gathered at the summit.
Mugabe and Zimbabwe have not yet officially recognized Libya’s NTC until now. Zimbabwe also expelled the Libyan ambassador when he defected to the rebel cause during the uprising against Gaddafi.
Addressing the media that followed the closing ceremony of the 18th AU Summit, the newly elected Chairperson of the African Union President Yayi Boni of Benin informed the press that the Assembly discussed among others, peace and security issues. “We were able to agree on certain measures to ensure that peace is restored to the areas affected by conflicts”, he underlined.
The newly elected Chairperson of the continental organization will manage the affairs of the Union and represent the AU for a one year mandate. According to the rotation principle, the Chairmanship of the Union for the year 2012 was to be given to a West African country. Therefore the Heads of State and Government of the AU endorsed the ECOWAS decision for Benin to take the turn at the helm of the Union.
Benin is taking over the presidency from President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea whose mandate for the year 2011 has come to an end.
The AU Chairperson also announced that the AU was pleased to receive the new Libyan authorities into the Union, and that the AU will continue to support the efforts of Libyans to ensure that peace and stability is restored and development enhanced. President Yayi Boni recalled that the issue of proliferation of arms in the region is of concern to the AU and needs urgent attention. “We want a new and safe Africa”, he said. Referring to the theme of the summit, President Boni commended the free trade area by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), adding that Africa is looking to establish a continental free trade area by 2017, in order to promote the economic development and integration of the continent.
On efforts to develop the continent’s infrastructure, during his speech African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping urged members not to relent in their investments in the sector. In addition, he called for the adoption of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). The Commission only recently finalized the programme with the help of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Community for Africa (UNECA).
Jean Ping also called for increased action to ensure food self-sufficiency on the continent. He expressed satisfaction with what he described as the “growing success” of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), a NEPAD initiative to help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development.
On a positive note, the AU Commission Chairperson said in spite of the difficult international situation, economic growth on the continent has remained robust in the past year. Africa grew at an average of 5 to 6 percent in 2011, said Jean Ping. He referred to the front cover of an issue of the weekly “Economist” magazine a decade ago that tagged Africa as the “Hopeless Continent.” The same publication in a December 2011 edition proclaimed “Africa Rising”, Ping told his audience. The new headline “speaks volumes about the long way Africa has come and the changes that have taken place. Many observers consider that Africa is on the verge of an economic takeoff, like China and India some decades ago.”
The guest of honour Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference of the Peoples’ Republic of China officially handed over “the gift of China to the people of Africa” the new conference centre that consumed 200 million dollars and built by the Chinese Government.
The Assembly of Heads of State which was held for the very first time in the plenary of the new building was an inaugural meeting in the presence of several personalities.
Jia Qinglin talked about the existing friendship between Africa and China saying “since the beginning of the 21st century, the China-Africa relationship has grown rapidly and made progress on all fronts.” He added that, the establishment and development of the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) and the new type of strategic partnership between the two, has boosted bilateral exchanges in the political, economic, trade and cultural fields, making the friendship between the people deeper.
He further said that China is ready to work with the AU to improve the strategic dialogue and enhance cooperation in cross-border and cross-region infrastructure development in Africa especially in the areas of peace and security.
Remembering the father
A statue for the late father of Africa Kwame Nkrumah was revealed during the opening ceremony. Kwame Nkrumah was a revolutionary and one of the founding fathers of the OAU.
However the Ethiopian government is heavily criticized for not aspiring to build another statue for the late Emperor Haile Sellassie who is mostly recognized for his pan-African movement.
Also featured at the opening ceremony of the Summit was the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards Ceremony which was awarded to two successful African Scientists: Prof. Oluwole Daniel Makinde, recipient of the Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation Award; and Prof. Maryke Tine Labuschagne, recipient of the Life and Earth Science Award. The awards were presented by the Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia; John Atta-Mills, President of the Republic of Ghana and Hon. Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, daughter of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.