LATEST: All set for AU official opening

Mabasa Sasa in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia.

President Mugabe and other continental leaders will soon start closed session deliberations ahead of the official opening of the 28th Ordinary Summit of the African Union here.

The agenda is packed, and even before the official opening ceremony begins in a couple of hours, Africa’s leaders must have already made headway on at least four key issues.

The first is consideration of the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Decision on Financing the African Union.

The drive is for the AU to full self-finance and move away from the current scenario where almost all its operations are funded by foreign donors.

President Mugabe has for years advocated for self-financing as a measure that will guarantee Africa’s power of agency over its own destiny.

The proposal on the table is for African countries to introduce a 0,2 percent levy on all imports, with the money going directly to the AU budget.

AU Commission Deputy Chair Dr Erastus Mwencha says this alone would raise at least US$1,5 billion, and some African countries have already started implementing the levy.

African leaders will this morning also consider a report of the Commission on the Continental Free Trade Area and the Mechanism to Eliminate Non-Trade Barriers; as well as possibly adopt the outcome document of the retreat of Heads of State and Government on the Institutional Reform of the AU.

Thereafter they will elect the new AU Bureau, which will be the bloc’s political leadership over the coming year.

Towards midday, the Summit enters an open session, which will consist of the official opening ceremony.

Among the dignitaries expected to address at the opening ceremony are outgoing AU Commission Chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; new United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Cuban Vice-President Salvador Valdes Mesa; and outgoing AU Chair President Idris Deby Itno of Chad.

The Summit, which is themed “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in the Youth”, then goes into a lengthy closed session until the official closing ceremony late on Tuesday.

It is during this closed session that African leaders must find Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s successor, after having failed to agree on a candidate six months ago at a mid-term Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

Those eyeing the post of “Africa’s top civil servant” are Botswana’s Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Dr Moussa Faki Mahamat (Chad), Agapito Mba Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea), Dr Amina Mohammed (Kenya), and Dr Abdoulaye Bathily (Senegal).

Insiders told this writer that the Kenyan candidate appeared to be the front-runner though the race remained tightly contested.

African leaders are apparently uncomfortable with the Sadc candidate for the post as her President, General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, is a proponent of the International Criminal Court at a time the vast majority of the continent’s leaders are pushing for reforms of the organisation.

The AU feels the ICC has unfairly targeted Africa as a tool for regime change and to ensure leaders are compliant to Western whims and caprices.

Further, President Khama has not done much to sell the candidate, while candidates from other countries have seen their leaders going all out before and during this Summit to sell them as they best replacements for Dr Dlamini-Zuma.

A candidate must have the support of two-thirds of the AU leadership to become Commission Chair.

African leaders will also fill the posts of Commission Deputy Chair (to replace Dr Mwencha, whose mandate ends at this Summit); and eight commissioners responsible for peace and security; political affairs; trade and industry; infrastructure and energy; social affairs; rural economy and agriculture; human resources, science and technology; and economic affairs.

Article Source: The Herald