29 January 2013

Africa: AU to Tackle Conflict, Poverty in 2013

The 20th African Union (AU) summit concluded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday, with newly elected AU chairperson, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, saying peace and security, and tackling poverty, would be the focus of his one-year term.

Security issues, including the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia, were among the issues most extensively discussed at the two-day summit.

"We [will] focus on economic transformation on the continent. This is the basis for all, even for conflict resolution and peace and stability, on the continent," Desalegn said.

"Africa is emerging and becoming the next growth pole, and out of the 10 [fastest growing] economies in the world, six are in Africa. That shows Africa is on the rise; but, we have to expedite, deepen what we have already started.

"In the meantime, we have to take care of peace and security, which is emerging in some of our member states. There are technical issues that we are going to address in this one year to pacify our continent. So, we will focus on the peace and security issues," said Desalegn.

AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said she saw a brighter future for the continent based on the achievements made in the last decade.

She cited economic growth surpassing 10% annually in some countries as an indication that the continent was on a growth trajectory. The discovery of new wealth like oil and gas would also help the continent generate new revenue.

The year 2013 would be about consolidating gains and planning the next medium term development goals.

"A long-term African Union-wide strategic framework is under development. Similarly, the four-year AU Commission Strategy (2013-2017) is being finalised," Dlamini Zuma said.

During the summit, African leaders agreed to contribute US$50-million, nearly 10% of the AU's total budget, to fund the peacekeeping mission in Mali.

With regards to the conflict in the DRC, a Neutral International Force proposed by Africa's Great Lakes region to combat rebel groups in the eastern DRC will work under the UN peace keeping force (MONUSCO) deployed in the vast central African country.

Ntumba Luaba, the Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), said member countries - including those belonging to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - had agreed that the force would be integrated into MONUSCO, while operating separately.

However, discussions between the UN and some African states on the resolution of the DRC crisis hit a snag on Monday when member countries declined to sign a political and security framework proposed by the UN to resolve the conflict that has left hundreds of thousands of Congolese homeless.

The 50th anniversary of AU will be celebrated in Addis Ababa on 25 May under the same theme of this summit, "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

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