Over 50 world leaders arrived in Addis Ababa this week to attend the Special Summit of the African Union held on Saturday May 25, to celebrate its Golden Jubilee.
Besides current and former African leaders who are meeting this weekend in Ethiopia’s capital, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Chinese Deputy Prime Minister, Wang Yang, French President, Francois Hollande, U.S. State Secretary, John Kerry and European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso are among the prominent leaders, according to sources at the African Union.
In addition, former and current Prime ministers of Jamaica were also part to the special summit that was held at the Millennium Hall.
The streets of Addis Ababa were busy beginning as early as last week as delegates from Africa and beyond have descended in the city to participate in the weeklong AU summit that kicked off Sunday ushering what would be a year-long celebrations across the continent of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of AU.
The OAU was founded on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa – which hosts the organization’s headquarters ever since, making it the third largest diplomatic city in the world after New York and Brussels – by 32 independent African states.
Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie I and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah were among the prominent African leaders who rallied the rest of Africa into realizing the largest Pan-African organization whose members have now reached 54.
The Special Summit on Saturday was open for public and today African leaders are holding their regular two-days summit behind closed doors under the theme “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”.
“Under this theme, Africa will be looking at that spirit of Pan-Africanism that inspires through solidarity, unity of purpose for us to be able to get rid of colonialism and its shackles,” said Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission. “We will be reflecting, first of all, on the road travelled and looking at experiences, missed opportunities and challenges, but also where Africa prevailed…. From it, take lessons as to where Africa should be going to the future…”
Despites Mwencha’s assertion of achievements, the AU has frequently been criticized as ineffective in resolving conflicts that often plagued the continent.
Nevertheless, its predecessor, OAU, has been credited for meeting its foremost purpose, achieving independence of all African countries, but shares criticisms for failing in other fronts.
The Golden Jubilee will be celebrated in every member state until May 2014 with various sporting, cultural, and symposium events among other functions.
As part of that, Ethiopian and Sudanese national soccer teams met in a commemorative friendly in Addis Ababa on Saturday. The two were selected by the AU because they were among the four founding members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and while the OAU was founded in Ethiopia, CAF was established in Sudan in 1957.
Mwencha says the AU wants all Africans to be part of the celebrations.
“We want to make sure that all Africans participate to develop what we call a trajectory that would help us get to 2063, for which we already agreed that it should be Africa that is prosperous, Africa that is united… Africa that is peaceful,” he concluded.
Before they close their assembly possibly on Monday evening, African leader will have to make various decisions including on AU Commission’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2017, its budget for the next year among other issues. Perhaps prominent among their decision will be the issue the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has been under fire for allegedly targeting only African individuals including leaders.
African Foreign Ministers on Friday agreed on proposal to urge the ICC that charge Kenya’s leaders on crimes against humanity, to be referred back to their country and the leaders will have to make final decisions on this.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, elected in March this year, both face trial at the ICC in The Hague for their alleged roles in orchestrating the deadly violence in 2007-8 following the election.
ICC has also issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
(Omer Redi is a Resident Correspondent for Spanish News Agency (EFE) as well as Founder and Managing Director of Ifriqiyah Media and Communications. He can be reached through [email protected] or [email protected])