16th AU Summit themes on peace, greater unity & integration

16:20, January 30, 2011      

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African heads of state and government leaders attending the current 2-day African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital are conferring on subjects related to the political, economic integration and the maintenance of peace, stability and security in the region, so as to seek solutions to Africa's hot topics.

The AU kicks off its 16th summit on Sunday and Monday in its headquarter in Addis Ababa with the theme of "Toward Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values."

The AU, with a membership of 53 states, is aimed to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector, in a bid to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among the people of Africa. The major organs of AU include the Assembly, the Executive Council, and the Pan-African Parliament and the Commission, which reports to the Executive Council, and its current chairperson is Dr. Jean Ping.

Dr. Jean Ping said last Thursday in his speech before the Executive Council: "The year 2010 was marked by the celebration of the year of peace and security in Africa" and "the year 2011 will be the year of entrepreneurship and promotion."

In the past year, Africa has shown to the world its capacity to seek peace and to take control of its own destiny, he recalled. Africa has stepped up efforts of the AU to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation and its peace and security coordination mechanism in Sub-Sahara Africa.

And an unconditional change of power, corruption and abuse of state power are issues that threaten peace and stability on the continent, he noted. There is a caveat to this optimistic scenario however, and so the current AU summit will focus on the integration of the African continent and to explore into measures to spur an integration.

The Cote d'Ivoire situation constitutes one of focuses which the current AU session attaches particular importance to. The Peace and Security Council of the AU on Friday, January 28, held a special summit, which requests the nation to halt violence against common people and, in the meanwhile, decided to establish an ad hoc committee on the Administration of Justice System with members to be defined by the AU summit.

The use of force should be the last resort in dealing with the political crisis in Cote d'Ivoire and the AU supports a "political, peaceful and negotiated" solution to its crisis, AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said on Saturday, January 29th.

The political situation in some North African countries, the peacekeeping mission operation in Somalia by the AU with the UN approval, and the peaceful transition of power in the related countries are also issues confronting the AU. The large-scale disturbance in Tunisia still has not subsided, and Egypt and Algeria have been affected. In Somalia, the AU needs to double the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia, and has approved a force of 8,000. The peacekeeping mission has played a certain role, but it requires the collective wisdom of African leaders to cope with the problems that have emerged as those on expansion of the contingent of peacekeepers, guarantee funds at the mission's disposal and the prompt arrival of equipment, etc.

Meanwhile, South Sudan has completed the voting in a referendum for independence from North Sudan. But to ensure the peaceful transition of political situation in the nation poses a major issue the AU is facing in 2011. Moreover, how to avoid the chaotic situation in presidential or parliament elections in a dozen African nations is a premise to guarantee peace, security and stability in Africa.

In addition to peace and security goals, African leaders will also work to remove barriers to the economic integration. According to statistics released by the World Bank, sub-Sahara African economy rose 4.7 percent last year with an apparent sign of recovery, but the accelerated economic growth is expected to reach 5.3 percent in 2011.

Hence, the rate of economic growth in Africa merits cheers, but there are also some un-optimistic areas, noted Abdoulie Janneh, UN undersecretary and executive secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa. In view of some factors affecting security in Africa, policy measures should be taken to ensure the justice and fairness equality resultant from economic growth, so as to stem African economy from sliding.

The AU Commission, the permanent secretariat of the union, is currently resorting to measures to build a Pan-African University, implement the infrastructure development plan and promote public health schemes, so as to ensure that local people are able to secure their economic benefits, according to secretary general of the UN African Union Commission.

Infrastructure development is one of the key measures to spur AU economic integration. As a coordinator for the new partnership plan on African development, South African President Jacob Zuma submitted a report on the progress with the construction boom and infrastructure development of the new partner plan. As the trade volume among African nations accounts for only less than 10 percent of their total trade, it is vital to develop roads, rail, utilities, electric power, telecommunications and harbours, in an endeavor to spur an integration and reduce internal trade or distribution costs.

By People's Daily Online and its author is Pei Guangjiang, PD resident reporter in South Africa


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