African Leaders To Tackle COVID-19, Conflict At Virtual Summit

President Buhari participates in Virtual 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in State House on 6th Feb 2021.

 

African leaders will open a two-day virtual summit Saturday to discuss the continent’s COVID-19 response as well as security issues that have been overlooked during the pandemic.

The African Union summit comes almost exactly one year after Egypt recorded the first case of COVID-19 in Africa, prompting widespread fears that member states’ weak health systems would quickly be overwhelmed.

But despite early doomsday predictions, the continent has so far been hit less hard than other regions, recording 3.5 per cent of global virus cases and 4 per cent of global deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Today, though, many African countries are battling damaging second waves while straining to procure sufficient vaccine doses.

African leaders are speaking out against hoarding by rich countries at the expense of poorer ones.

“There is a vaccine nationalism on the rise, with other rich countries jumping the queue, some even pre-ordering more than they require,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU’s executive body, the African Union Commission, in a recent interview the AU posted online.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver a pandemic response update during the closed portion of the summit Saturday, according to a draft programme seen by AFP.

Vaccine financing is also expected to be discussed, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told a press conference this week.

Elections and crises

Separately, member states are due to hold internal elections to lead the restructured commission — the results of which will shape how the AU responds to the pandemic and a host of economic and security challenges.

Faki, a former prime minister of Chad, is running unopposed for a second four-year term as commission chief.

He still needs to get two-thirds of the vote, overcoming accusations — which he denies — of “a culture of sexual harassment, bribery, corruption and bullying within the commission,” the International Crisis Group wrote in a recent briefing.

In another race, Nigerian Bankole Adeoye is favoured to head the AU’s newly-merged political affairs and peace and security departments, diplomats say, though AU rules dividing top positions among Africa’s sub-regions could lead to a surprise result.

Whoever wins could play a critical role, along with Faki, in addressing crises the AU is accused of overlooking.

There are multiple internal conflicts the AU has done little to resolve.

Its Peace and Security Council has failed to hold meetings on the conflict between government forces and anglophone separatists in Cameroon, for example, as well as rising Islamist militancy in Mozambique.

A three-month-old conflict in the AU’s host country Ethiopia, pitting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against the former ruling party of the northern Tigray region, has proved especially sensitive.

Abiy has rejected appeals from high-level AU envoys for talks with Tigrayan leaders, sticking to his line that the conflict is a limited “law and order” operation.

This weekend’s summit comes as new US President Joe Biden vows to re-engage with multilateral institutions like the African Union.

In a video message posted Friday, Biden said his administration would engage in “sustained diplomacy, in connection with the African Union, to address conflicts that are costing lives all across the African continent.”

Biden Promises Partnership With Africa, Hopes To Attend Next AU Summit

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Friday promised partnership with Africa and said he hoped to attend the next African Union summit, an about-face in US interest in a continent largely ignored by his predecessor.

In a video message to this weekend’s African Union summit, being held virtually due to Covid, the new US leader promised to work with Africans on his key priorities of fighting the virus and climate change and also to advance diplomacy to end the continent’s conflicts.

“None of this is going to be easy, but the United States stands ready now to be your partner in solidarity, support and mutual respect,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Africa To Receive Nearly 90m COVID-19 Vaccines In February

“I hope I can be with you next time in person.”

In what have become early themes of his presidency, Biden vowed to promote democracy and the rights of sexual minorities — which are frequently under attack in Africa.

Biden said he wanted to work with Africa on “a future committed to investing in our democratic institutions and promoting the human rights of all people — women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities and people of every ethnic background, religion and heritage.”

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan not to visit Africa during his tenure and rose to prominence by promoting the falsehood that his predecessor Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Trump notoriously was quoted as using an expletive to describe African nations when explaining why he did not want non-white immigrants to the United States.

 

AFP

COVID-19 And Conflicts Compete For Attention At African Union Summit

ILLUSTRATIVE PHOTO: The African Heads of States and Governments pose during African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018. (STR / AFP)

 

 

African leaders are expected to focus on the continent’s COVID-19 response at a virtual summit this weekend, as well as pressing security crises that have gone overlooked during the pandemic.

The two-day African Union summit comes almost exactly one year after Egypt recorded the first case of COVID-19 in Africa, prompting widespread fears that member states’ weak health systems would quickly be overwhelmed.

But despite early doomsday predictions, the continent has so far been hit less hard than other regions, recording 3.5 percent of global virus cases and 4 percent of global deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Today, though, many African countries are battling damaging second waves while straining to procure sufficient vaccine doses.

“The developed North, which has substantial financial resources, has purchased the largest stocks, while we in Africa are still struggling to get our fair share,” South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor said Wednesday in remarks opening a pre-summit meeting of AU foreign ministers.

Member states will also hold internal elections to lead a restructured executive body — the results of which will shape how the AU responds to the pandemic and a host of economic and security challenges.

Security crises, meanwhile, include a three-month-old conflict in the AU’s host country Ethiopia and longer-running quagmires in the Sahel and elsewhere.

“We hope that the summit will present an opportunity for African leaders to refocus their attention on a number of conflicts and crises that have had attention diverted away from them, due to the logical focus on Covid in the last year,” said Imogen Hooper, AU analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG).

-‘Vaccine nationalism’-South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver a pandemic response update during the closed portion of the summit Saturday, according to a draft programme seen by AFP.

As outgoing AU chairman, Ramaphosa has spent the past year overseeing efforts to scale up testing and source vaccines, all while grappling with 1.5 million detected infections in his own country — roughly 40 percent of the continent’s total.

This week South Africa received one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and Ramaphosa’s government plans to inoculate 67 percent of its population by year’s end.

Continent-wide targets are less ambitious, with the WHO describing an end-of-year goal of around 30 percent as more “realistic”.

African leaders are speaking out against hoarding by rich countries at the expense of poorer ones.

“There is a vaccine nationalism on the rise, with other rich countries jumping the queue, some even pre-ordering more than they require,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU’s executive body, the African Union Commission, in a recent interview the AU posted online.

– Elections and crises -Faki, a former prime minister of Chad, is running unopposed for a second four-year term as commission chief.

He still needs to get two-thirds of the vote, overcoming accusations — which he denies — of “a culture of sexual harassment, bribery, corruption and bullying within the commission,” ICG wrote in a briefing this week.

In a separate race, Nigerian Bankole Adeoye is favoured to head the AU’s newly-merged political affairs and peace and security departments, diplomats say, though AU rules dividing top positions among Africa’s sub-regions could lead to a surprise result.

Whoever wins could play a critical role, along with Faki, in addressing crises the AU is accused of overlooking.

In the online interview, Faki touted his focus on conflict prevention, saying he was “pleased to note there are no conflicts between states”.

But there are multiple internal crises the AU has done little to resolve.

Its Peace and Security Council has failed to hold meetings on the conflict between government forces and anglophone separatists in Cameroon, for example, as well as rising Islamist militancy in Mozambique.

The conflict in Ethiopia, pitting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against the former ruling party of the northern Tigray region, has proved especially sensitive.

Faki called for a cessation of hostilities a week after the fighting started in early November.

But Abiy has rejected appeals from high-level AU envoys for talks with Tigrayan leaders, sticking to his line that the conflict is a limited “law and order” operation.

It’s an example of how the AU’s sway can be limited regardless of who is in charge.

“Whenever a member state has insisted that a conflict is internal,” the ICG’s Hooper said, “the AU has struggled to get involved.”

Jonathan, Others Discuss Return To Civil Rule In Burkina Faso

Jonathan_BurkinaThe presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal visited Burkina Faso to press the military for a speedy handover of power to a civilian ruler.

The African Union (AU) says the army acted unconstitutionally when it took over after President Blaise Compaore was forced to resign on Friday.

The AU on Monday gave the army a two-week deadline. Interim leader Lt Col Isaac Zida later promised to comply.

Mr Compaore quit after mass protests at his bid to extend his 27-year rule.
‘Quick transition’

Col Zida met Senegalese President Macky Sall, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Ghana’s John Mahama at the airport in the capital Ouagadougou.

A statement from President Jonathan’s office said the three-man delegation representing West African regional body Ecowas aimed to “facilitate the rapid resolution of the current political crisis in Burkina Faso”.

They will hold a series of meetings to press for the quick handover, following a threat by the AU to impose sanctions if the military did not act within two weeks.

The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa says the sanctions could include suspension of Burkina Faso’s AU membership and a travel ban on military officials.

After meetings with opposition leaders and activists on Tuesday, Col Zida was quoted as saying that he would comply with the demand.

“If everyone agrees, there is no reason that the transition shouldn’t be done within two weeks,” he said, according to union leader Joseph Tiendrebeogo, the AFP news agency reports.

Opposition leaders have not entirely ruled out a role for the military in the transition.

Col Zida was previously second in command of the presidential guard.

AGF seeks ICC and AU’s support in trying terrorist financiers

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), has solicited the support of International Criminal Court (ICC), and the African Union (AU), in prosecuting terrorist financiers in a bid to stem the growing challenge of terrorism, faced by the country. .

While flagging-off the 51st session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALGO), in Abuja, Mr Adoke said it was high time the ICC paid closer attention to the worsening security situation in Nigeria.

“As you are aware, Nigeria has recently been grappling with the challenges occasioned by piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and terrorism in the northern part of the country, we therefore hope to benefit from incisive analysis to effectively combat international crime” he stated.

According to the AGF, despite the large number of African state parties to the Rome status of the ICC, the relationship between the organisation and AU has remained less satisfactory.

“We must, therefore, continue to render support to one another and take advantage of our unique skills and competencies to enhance the well-being of our people,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the executive Secretary of AALCO, Prof. Rahmat Muhammed, in his opening remarks, said the conference would deliberate on important issues concerning member nations, saying the organisation was committed towards ensuring peace and good governance among its member states.