25 January 2013

Africa: Zuma to Lead SA Team to AU Summit

Photo: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma and other Heads of States pose for a group photo after the official opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

President Jacob Zuma will lead a South African delegation to the 20th African Union (AU) Assembly at the weekend. The gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 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 told journalists in Pretoria on Thursday.

The summit, taking place on Sunday and Monday, will be held under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

South Africa will use the summit 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 on the continent's priority infrastructure projects.

Peace, security high on the agenda

Peace and security will be high on the summit's agenda. The situations in Mali and the Central African Republic, among others, will 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 neighbouring Algeria by guerrillas opposing French action in Mali have heightened fears that north Mali could become a target for international attacks by Al-Qaeda.

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

Ebrahim said Pretoria continued to support the global fight against terrorism and supported multilateral efforts, especially within the UN and AU. South Africa stood ready to support Algeria in the fight to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, he added.

Humanitarian crisis in Sahel region

On humanitarian aid, the deputy minister said Pretoria remained committed to helping the four core Sahelian states of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

"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."

The Sahel countries approached the South African government for assistance last year. Since then, South Africa has sent tons of fertilisers, animal feed, boost nutrition and bio-pesticides to the region.

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

The insecurity in Mali has exacerbated the crisis, forcing internally dispelled persons and refugees to flee to drought-affected areas.

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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