AU gets down to serious business

2015-02-01 15:00

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Heads of state and their delegations gathered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa this week at the biannual African Union summit, where they thrashed out issues of continental concern. Carien du Plessis reports on a few of the decisions.

1. Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe has been elected chairperson of the African Union (AU). This is a middle finger of sorts from the AU to Europe and the US, because Mugabe might have to attend global forums on behalf of the AU in some countries and regions where he faces sanctions and travel bans.

On his election as AU chairperson, a position that rotates between regions every year, the 90-year-old told peers at the AU assembly, to laughter and warm applause, that the “blind eye of colonialists” could fortunately not see the oil in Africa.

“African resources should belong to Africa and to no one else, except to those we invite as friends. Friends we shall have, yes, but imperialists and colonialists no more. Africa is for Africans.”

His first deputy is Democratic Republic of ­Congo leader Joseph Kabila, who is expected to step into the position next year.

2. Boko Haram

Even though Boko Haram featured high on the agenda, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not attend the summit as he was campaigning for the elections in two weeks. Foreign Minister Aminu Bashir Wali attended.

After an intense discussion of almost two hours on Thursday night, the AU peace and security council gave the go-ahead for the deployment of a multinational joint task force consisting of up to 7?500 soldiers for an initial period of 12 months.

It also called for the support of the UN and other AU partners, and for a donor conference to be held by mid-March. Nigeria reportedly opposed outside intervention earlier, but apparently changed its stance by the time the meeting took place.

3. Finances

After the death of one of its biggest funders, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the AU has had to consider alternative sources of funding. It also wants to reduce its reliance on Western donors.

Proposals by a committee led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo included oil and tourism taxes, but were shot down.

The AU will now propose that a formula should be calculated according to each country’s GDP and it will be left up to the country to come up with the money.

A South African government official said this could quadruple the country’s R162?million ­contribution.

National Treasury refused to comment before the February 25 budget.

The AU budget is set to drop from $522?million (R6?billion) this year to just more than $400?million next year.

4. ICC

The AU has declared a war of sorts against the International Criminal Court (ICC). ­After Kenya this week openly accused it of ­waiting a year before announcing the dropping of the charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta, the AU assembly expressed “deep concern” about the case and asked for the charges against his ­deputy, William Ruto, to be suspended until African concerns about the court are addressed.

The AU also called for states to give funds for the African Court which, it is hoped, will also deal with criminal cases in future.

5. Women

Female empowerment is the theme of the AU’s programmes this year, in line with its Vision 2063, and it was also the theme of the summit. AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma remarked that it had been 20 years since the Beijing Women’s Conference. She said the continental programme on gender equality would focus on getting women involved in conflict resolution and peace-building, increasing their ­representation in public life, and empowering them economically.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked that although women in Africa enjoy good representation in Parliament and Cabinets, much more remained to be done for poor and vulnerable women.

6. South Sudan

It was expected that South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir would sign a power-sharing agreement with his former deputy, Riek Machar, after the two warring factions of their Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party signed a peace agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, earlier this month. But they struggled to reach an agreement, which prevented Obasanjo from tabling his report on the atrocities committed by both sides in the war that broke out in 2013 after Machar’s faction of the party rebelled.

It is believed the report deeply and directly ­implicates the leaders of both sides in the violence, and experts like Solomon Dersso of the Institute for Security Studies believe continuing disagreement could plunge the country back into war.

7. Ebola

Member states who still had Ebola-related travel restrictions were called on to lift these immediately, and the AU called for the cancellation of the debts of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It also requested the commission on Ebola to pay the affected states $500?000 each, as agreed.

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