30 January 2014

Zambia: Sata Attends AU Summit Opening

PRESIDENT Michael Sata was yesterday among Heads of State and Government at the 22nd ordinary session of the African Union (AU) summit which opened here under the theme 'Agriculture and Food Security'.

Mr Sata earlier attended a closed-door caucus for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State, which formally welcomed back Madagascar.

The SADC caucus was also aimed at brainstorming on which candidate the regional bloc would support for the AU chairperson to replace outgoing Ethiopia.

The AU summit proper was called to order at 10:10 hours when the Heads of State and Government were still streaming in from their respective sideline meetings and caucuses.

President Sata entered the auditorium hand in hand with his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe and on the way to their designated seats, the two leaders stopped by to share pleasantries with their counterparts.

Mr Sata, who wore a grey suit, briefly conversed with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and later South African President Jacob with whom he shared a hearty laughter before proceeding to take his seat.

The meeting started with a moment of silence in memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died last December aged 95.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who presided over the official opening formalities, later handed over the mantle of AU chairperson to Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The outgoing chairperson said under his charge, the AU had started talks on the Vision 2063 agenda aimed at galvanising the continent by establishing the United States of Africa.

He deplored what he described as 'senseless violence' in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and other countries, saying the wars were negating the gains made by Africa in conflict resolution.

The new chairperson proposed that the AU holds an extraordinary summit later this year to discuss the issue of migration and the brain-drain it had caused on Africa.

AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the target of 'silencing the guns' in all conflict areas by the year 2021 which was adopted last year was a possibility.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said women and children were grappling with the consequences of wars on the continent, and that conflicts had no place in the Pan-African Renaissance espoused by the founders of the AU.

United Nations (UN) under Secretary General Jan Eliasson said the tenets of democracy, rule of law and human rights that the AU was pushing for resonated with the UN's aspirations.

Mr Eliasson said Africa's role in the global development agenda could not be ignored, adding that the continent's economic growth was exceptional considering that other parts of the world were still recovering from the financial crisis.

Newly-elected President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina and his Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keita were applauded as the newest members of the AU family.

South African President Jacob Zuma later formally thanked the AU for its support during the funeral of Mr Mandela.

Meanwhile, President Sata will proceed on a 14-day working holiday after attending the AU general assembly.

Mr Sata's Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations George Chellah said in a statement released here last night that the President would tomorrow leave Addis Ababa after the summit to proceed for the holiday.

The Head of State, who is accompanied by First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba, arrived here on Wednesday afternoon for the summit and is also expected to take part in a series of other sideline meetings.

Dr Kaseba on Wednesday attended a closed-door meeting for the Organisation for African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS.

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