African Union summit opens with focus on stability

January 30th, 2011 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Addis Ababa, Jan 30 (IANS) The 16th African Union (AU) summit opened Sunday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa as African leaders gather to discuss peace, security and stability in the continent.The summit’s theme “Towards Greater Unity and Integration Through Shared Values” is likely to be overshadowed by heated discussion on a number of thorny issues, including the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, the social unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, the post-referendum reconstruction in Sudan, and the deteriorating situation in Somalia, Xinhua reported.

AU Commission chairperson Jean Ping, AU president and Malawi President Bingu Mutharika, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were among the top dignitaries present at the opening ceremony.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Ban expressed concern over the situation in Cote d’ Ivoire.

He reiterated the UN’s stance that Alassane Ouattara was the rightful president-elect of Cote d’ Ivoire, and he welcomed the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to create a high-level panel to deal with the crisis in the West African country.

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Ngcuema Mbasogo will take over the rotating presidency of the AU from Mutharika during the opening ceremony.

During a press conference on the eve of the summit, Ping predicted that the summit would be characterised by “serious divergences”, with intense discussions on Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia and south Sudan, among others.

The establishment of the AU to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was founded in 1963, was envisaged at an African summit in September 1999 in Libya’s Sirte, with a view to furthering African cooperation, development and integration. The Constitutive Act of the AU entered into force in May 2001 and the AU was formally established in July 2002.

The AU, which has 53 member states, is aimed at building 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.

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