Crises to upstage infrastructure, development at AU Summit

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Addis Ababa - The crises in several African countries is likely to take precedence over the items on the official agenda at the 12th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa which convened at the weekend.

The agenda, which focuses on infrastructure and development in Africa, is likely to be dominated instead by discussions around last year's coups in Guinea and Mauritania, which were suspended from the AU as well as developments in Zimbabwe, where a deal on a unity government, could ease a year-old crisis.

The 40 Heads of State and several dignitaries from across Africa are also expected to hold talks on Somalia, where old rivals are moving closer to a coalition government.

The summit's theme is "Infrastructure Development in Africa" with a focus on transport, energy and investment issues against a negative international financial background.

AU Commission Chief Jean Ping said the current global economic downturn would also come under the spotlight. "African economies and African people will suffer the full wrath of the crisis for which they are not responsible."

Mr Ping argued that the financial crisis would divert the international community's attention from funding development to rescuing banking and financial institutions. However, he noted that conflicts have deepened Africa's vulnerability to the global economic slump.

"The continent's vulnerability is always worsened by potential and open conflicts," Mr Ping said.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, accompanied by a high-level government delegation, arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday ahead of the African Union (AU) Summit.

The President has concluded discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where he addressed world leaders on the effects of the global economic crisis on South Africa.

South Africa is participating in these meetings within the context of the country's priority to consolidating the African Agenda, through amongst others, the strengthening of institutions of the African Union.

President Motlanthe is expected to table a report at the summit on the outcomes of the recent Southern Africa Development Summit held in Pretoria to discuss the implementation of the Zimbabwean Global Political Agreement.

On, Sunday, the AU Summit will hold a Special Session to discuss the African Union Government and receive a Report of the Commission of the Implementation of Decision Assembly/ AU/ December 2006 on the Report of the 12 Heads of State/ government on the Union Government by Mr Ping.

Establishing a unified Africa to give African people stronger bargaining power at international forums has been a dream of several generations of pan-Africanists.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian police have beefed up security in and around Addis Ababa, ahead of the summit. The Addis Ababa police commission had deployed thousands of police officers in hotels and public gathering areas.

Heavily armed security personnel have been put at strategic spots in the city, including the Bole Airport where the Heads if State and other delegates passed through ahead of the summit. There are also police doing searches on guests at the hotels where the delegates will be accommodated.

Later on Sunday evening the Heads of State and Government are expected to attend a function in honour of the late Aime Cesare and Miriam Makeba through the recital of poems and literary excerpts of Aime Cesare as well as a live Performance by the Makeba Band.