SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

1 February 2014

Africa: AU Leaders Strive for Peaceful Continent

Photo: Thijs Bouwknegt/RNW
International Criminal Court in the Hague

The two-day African Union summit closed in Ethiopia on Friday night with a renewed pledge by leaders to work towards a prosperous Africa free from conflicts and poverty.

However, it's still not clear when the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis (ACIRC) will be operationalized, with newly elected AU chairperson Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz only saying that the AU would enable the countries that have committed themselves to the initiative to put it together.

So far, only seven of the 54 member states have pledged their commitment to provide troops for ACIRC should a need arise.

"The initiative is open to all members of the AU to provide forces that will step in whenever there is a need, especially when the Peace and Security Council decides there is a need," Aziz said.

Earlier on Friday, President Jacob Zuma confirmed that practical modalities for the operationalization of the ACIRC were discussed at length at the summit.

According to the AU, ACIRC should be an efficient, robust and credible force, which can be deployed very rapidly, able to conduct operations of limited duration and objectives or contribute to creating enabling conditions for the deployment of larger AU and/or UN peace operations. It is an interim tool as the African Standby Force is meant to be operational by 2015.

Even though the summit's agenda was meant to be dominated by agriculture and food security issues, the conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic almost overshadowed meaningful debate on those issues.

But AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was quick to point out at a press conference that the June summit of heads of state will dedicate time to agriculture and food security. A summit declaration was not readily available to journalist on Friday night.

Aziz described the summit as "momentous", saying decisions taken at the meeting would change the outlook of the continent.

"We have taken several decisions at this summit, which we believe are going to take this continent to another level. We will see a continent that is safe and prosperous," Aziz told journalists at a press conference that followed the summit's closing ceremony.

"We have taken bold decisions in relation with the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), the empowerment of women and youth, and decisions relating to security and the fight against terrorism."

He said the African force deployed in Central African Republic (CAR) was "doing all it can" to bring about stability in that country.

The conflict in South Sudan has displaced more than 702 000 people across that country and caused another 123 000 to flee to neighbouring countries in over six weeks, while on-going fighting continues wreak havoc in the Central African Republic.

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