On Sunday I wrote about Spanish PM Zapatero addressing African leaders at the opening of the 14th ordinary African Union Summit in Addis Abeba, and how he stuck to generalities on his speech. The summit finished yesterday, and, keeping in the line, African leaders made some interesting declarations but did not push through any revolutionary decisions. Nevertheless, I have tought it may be a good idea to put together the most important outcomes of the summit:
The most commented aspect of the meeting, as it is often the case in African politics, was a question of leadership. Thus, the earlier part of the summit was dominated by a bitter controversy: the desire of the AU Chairman, Muammar Al Gaddafi, to exten his one-year term. During his tenure, Gaddafi has been the centre of numerous controversies (some of these have been mentioned before in this blog – for example, here and here), but this time he had to give up and cede the AU Chairmanship to Malawian president Bingu Wa Mutharika. This change to a presidency on the south of the continent was part of an established rotating system, but after Gaddafi’s wishes were ignored – something that some consider as an “rare glimpse of courage” from African leaders – Gaddafi accused the “political elite of the continent” of lacking “political awareness and hence the political determination”, and set his sight on a new international role – this time as leader of the League of Arab states.
Newly elected AU Chairman Bingu Wa Mutharika (Photo Reuters)
On the main theme of the conference “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development”, not much appears to have been advanced. There was, of course the unavoidable declaration of good intentions at the closing ceremony, with the Chairman Wa Mutharika pointing out the need to “put in place a food security program to alleviate poverty in the next five years; the need to develop transport and telecommunications, and connect countries through ICTs; and the development of energy”. But these declarations are not enough and ICT analysts and experts still think there is much work to be done, and that sometimes the AU focuses on the wrong areas.
A number of other topics were however also discussed at the AU summit, such as:
– the dissolution of NEPAD – after nearly ten years in which it failed to deliver a single project – and its substitution by a new agency – the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) – formally integrated within the AU’s structures.
– on the inauguration of 2010 as the “Year of Peace and Security in Africa”, Wa Mutharika also declared “war on unconstitutional change of government on the African soil and resolve to take strong necessary punitive action against all authors of coup d’etats and those that provide them the means to unseat duly elected governments”, and pressed for the AU to take a harder stance on coup leaders in countries like Madagascar, Mauritania and Guinea (with measures being announced next week).
– a letter from Eritrea was circulated among the leaders attending the summit, accusing Ethiopia of blocking Eritrea’s participation at AU events by failing to extend appropiate guarantees to its officials.
– AU leaders also considered, according to the Chairman of the AU Comission Jean Ping, offering “land and naturalization benefits” to Haitians affected by the earthquake and who may seek to return to the African continent.
– at the the summit, the AU also endorsed South Africa’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, on the elections that will take place at the General Assembly in October this year.
– finally, at the summit, the AU also unveiled its new flag, selected from those put forward after the call for new ideas made in 2007.