Voice of America (Washington, DC)

23 May 2013

African Leaders to Meet As AU Celebrates 50th Anniversary

African leaders plan to meet this weekend at a summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).The Theme of the summit is pan-Africanism and renaissance.

"Under this theme, Africa will be looking at that spirit of pan-Africanism that inspires through solidarity, unity of purpose for us to be able to get rid of colonialism and its shackles," said Erastus Mwencha, the deputy chairman of the African Union (AU).

This will be the 21st summit of heads of state and government scheduled to coincide with the AU's golden jubilee celebrations.

"We will be reflecting, first of all, on the road travelled and looking at experiences, missed opportunities and challenges, but also where Africa prevailed," said Mwencha. "From it, [we will] take lessons as to where Africa should be going to the future... "

Mwencha says the AU wants all Africans to be part of the celebrations.

"We want to make sure that all Africans participate to develop what we call a trajectory that would help us get to 2063, for which we already agreed that it should be Africa that is prosperous, Africa that is united [and] Africa that is peaceful," he said.

Critics have said the AU has not been effective in resolving conflicts that often plagued the continent because some of its members have internal security challenges of their own.

Mwencha says the AU has made significant strides toward solving the problems.

"If you look at this continent, say 10 years ago, there were no less than 15 conflicts raging throughout the continent and some of them threatening to tear apart some countries, if not jeopardize the whole project of integration," said Mwencha. "But 10 years on, one can say we now have less than five conflicts and even those five, Africa is on top of the agenda in managing them, working together with the international community."

He says the AU has been working with member states to implement structures and policies to prevent conflicts before they begin as well as systems to resolve conflicts already underway.

Mwencha says Africans should be optimistic because the leaders from member states have shown commitment to eliminating conflicts.

"I see leaders who are determined to bring this to an end; I see concerned people who want to see that this comes to an end, and so we should be able to be hopeful in that," said Mwencha.

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