Addis Ababa — African Jihadism is gripping Africa, said African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Jean Ping at the opening of the 19th AU Summit in Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Ping spoke of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shebab in Somalia. "Efforts should be made to contain and eradicate this phenomenon," he said.
The crisis in northern Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern rebellion, and the tension between Sudan and South Sudan top the agenda of topics here at the summit.
The AU Commission Chair addressed heads of state, dignitaries, and special guests, including the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Emir will host a pan Afro-African summit in 2013.
Three newly-elected heads of state at the opening of the ceremony addressed the dignitaries, each focusing on different issues.
Newly elected Senegalese Prime Minister Macky Sall took the opportunity to announce that Senegal has agreed to hold the trial of Hissene Habré, the former Chadian dictator.
He also stated that while he was elected in May to a seven-year term, he will work towards changing the presidential mandate to a five-year term, renewable once; a mandate that would be effective immediately.
Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's new President, spoke of the actions that led to his rise to power: "this great revolution that was peaceful. This revolution that indeed was the expression of the popular will of the people", calling it "a new era of history that was born."
Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of Lesotho, also referred to the fluid transition to power through peaceful elections in the southern Africa kingdom.
A notable absence in the grand hall at the summit was country host, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. No member of the Ethiopian government spoke at the opening. Meles is slated to host a banquet on Sunday evening for the heads of state.
UN deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson spoke at the opening ceremony instead of Ban Ki-Moon who was expected to address the heads of state.
At the closed session after lunch, heads of state will discuss one of the hottest topics here at the summit, the election of the AU Commission Chairperson.
Francophone countries, aligned with incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon are up against Nkosana Dlamini Zuma, South Africa's Home Affairs minister, who has a strong support bloc with the countries of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
This election has threatened to take the spotlight off the main crises on the continent. At the 18th AU summit earlier this year, heads of state deadlocked with the same two candidates.