Africa: AU Summit Grapples With Coups, Food Crisis, Terrorism, Climate Change

(File photo), climate change, global warming

African Union leaders are meeting in Equatorial Guinea. Inflation and war in Ukraine are increasing food prices across Africa. Four AU member states are suspended because of coups.

African Union leaders are gathering for the second and final day of an extraordinary summit in the Equatorial Guinea capital, Malabo, discussing challenges ranging from terrorism to democratic governance and climate change.

Saturday's session focuses on terror threats and aims to evaluate the existing response mechanisms.

"The African continent is the victim of cruel terrorist attacks perpetrated by groups such as Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic State (IS), et cetera, et cetera," Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said on Saturday.

Parties were set to decide on the necessary actions and measures to strengthen the security of African states facing terrorism and violent extremism.

Unconstitutional changes to governments

The AU assembly is also looking at the recommendations put forth during the March AU Reflection Forum on "unconstitutional changes of government" in Africa.

Four members -- Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Sudan -- are currently suspended from the AU following coups. Three of these changes of government took place last year, Burkina Faso's in January.

AU leaders will be asked to approve Accra Declaration, drafted at a meeting in March. This declaration says that to "prevent and end any form of unconstitutional changes of government on the Continent, is a compelling and shared task for all stakeholders."

The declaration lists some 28 steps to take towards this end, albeit several of them rather vague. They range from better tackling social media disinformation, to developing "a comprehensive framework establishing different categories of sanctions that may be gradually applied" to countries where coups take place, to simply establishing "clear and precise standards that allow for a substantive assessment of member states' constitutional orders."

Climate issues challenging Africa

AU leaders also discussed the humanitarian crises on the continent, further exacerbated by climate change.

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Raouf Mazou said in an address during the summit that climate-related disasters in recent years have added to existing population displacements caused by violence and conflict.

A 2021 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) released in May suggested that 23.7 million people were internally displaced as a result of climate-related disasters worldwide, as well as 14.4 million displaced by fighting.

Countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan are already experiencing stronger and more frequent floods and droughts in recent years. It is feared that climate-related shortages could aggravate existing conflicts.

One glaring example is Cameroon, where the scarce water resources in the country's far north region have pitted fishers and farmers against one another, prompting the displacement of at least 100,000 people inside Cameroon and beyond.

War on Ukraine casts shadow on Africa

The summit also addressed the impact Russia's war on Ukraine has had on African countries. A drop in food aid and a sharp increase in food prices are taking their toll on African refugees and forcibly displaced individuals, threatening to further fuel intercommunal tensions.

The UN humanitarian office, OCHA, has estimated that some 18 million Africans could face severe food insecurity in the coming three months, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

In a virtual address to the summit on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would commit "further financial support to our African partners." She said this would have an "immediate focus" on food security and a "long-term" focus on the "root causes of insecurity."

"Ukraine is the granary of the world. It alone exports half the world's sunflower oil and provides over half of the World Food Programme's wheat supply," von der Leyen told the summit, adding that the EU was also trying not to have an impact on Russia's food business with sanctions.

Global wheat prices have risen by roughly one-third in 2022 alone.

"The speed at which we act now will determine the scale of the problem in a few months," von der Leyen said.

rmt/msh (AP, AFP)

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