24 January 2013

South Africa: Zuma to Lead SA to AU Summit

Pretoria — President Jacob Zuma is to lead a South African delegation to the 20th African Union (AU) Assembly at the weekend which will mark the 50th anniversary since the establishment of the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

"The assembly will pay tribute to the generations of Pan Africanist and founding fathers of the continental organisation," International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said on Thursday.

The summit will be held under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

South Africa will use the upcoming summit of African leaders to be held in Addis Ababa on Sunday and Monday to thrash out some of the complex challenges hindering the continent's economic development.

In his capacity as the Chairperson of the NEPAD High-Level Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, Zuma will host a meeting on the sidelines of the summit to review progress of the continent priority infrastructure projects.

Briefing media in Pretoria, Ebrahim said the summit will be preceded by an ordinary session of the executive council.

High on the agenda of the summit will be peace and security on the continent. The situations in Mali, Central African Republic (CAR) among others, would dominate discussions, said Ebrahim.

For nearly two weeks, French jets have been hitting selected targets around rebel-held Malian towns such as Gao and Timbuktu.

The seizure of a gas plant in the neighbouring Algeria by guerrillas opposing French action in Mali heightened fears that Mali north could become target for international attacks by al Qaeda.

At least 81 people died and hundreds rescued from the hostage drama. Among them was a South African man who is safely came back home on Monday.

Ebrahim said Pretoria continued to support the global fight against terrorism and supported multilateral efforts, especially within the UN and AU while eradicating terrorism.

"The South African government has noted the dire humanitarian situation and continued terrorist threat in the Sahel Region. We reiterate the need for all African states to work together with the AU in partnership with the rest of the international community to redouble efforts to address the situation."

Ebrahim said South Africa stood ready to support Algeria in the fight to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

On humanitarian aid - the deputy minister said Pretoria remained committed to helping, although in need at the four core Sahelian states - Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

They approached the South African government for assistance at a bilateral level last year.

Since then, South Africa has sent tons of fertilisers, animal feed, boost nutrition and bio- pesticide.

The most recent shipment is currently en route to Niamey by road. The final consignment will leave the Durban harbour for Contonou by the end of January said Ebrahim.

The insecurity in Mali has exacerbated the crisis, which forces internally dispelled persons and refugees to run to drought affected areas where food insecurity are among the worse.

Over 15 million people, including 3.5 million Malians, across the Sahel have been affected by a food and nutrition crisis since 2012 and over one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition.

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