The 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU was officially opened on 30th June, 2017 at the African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and has come to close after 9 days.
By Amen Teferi
The fifteen years old continental organization AU consists of all the 55 countries on the African continent. AU was launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, replacing the Organization of African Union (OAU). Ethiopia was busy hosting its guests for the last nine days, as the various statutory organs of the Union met in Addis Ababa to get status updates and make decisions on issues of importance to the continent. The 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU was officially opened on 30th June, 2017 at the African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and has come to close after 9 days. The 29th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union convened under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.”
Ahead of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of States and Government was held the 31st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, where the Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, in his first address to the Executive Council, highlighted five main issues. The first issue is to implement the relevant decisions to be taken by the Assembly in light of the report by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, on the implementation of the reform of the African Union. The second area is that of peace and security, with the objective of silencing the guns by 2020. The third area is a humanitarian action in solidarity with the victims of drought, famine and forced displacement. The fourth priority would be strategic development issues, i.e. executing some integral projects for the benefit of African people. And the fifth course of action the Chairperson highlighted was the imperative to speak with one voice.
The top agenda of the Assembly of the AU was reviewing the report presented by H.E Paul Kagame on the Institutional Reform of the AU. Moreover, it has discussed on the theme of the summit, i.e. ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth’; also deliberated on reports on peace and security, implementation of Agenda 2063; and the 2018 budget of the African Union.
Regarding the institutional reform of the African Union, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is the leader of the reform team, had presented his report to his fellow Heads of State and Government and the Assembly have agreed to expedite the reform process, taking into account the inputs received from member states. The assembly has also discussed reports on Africa’s Peace and Security status and deliberated on the implementation of the master roadmap of practical steps to silence guns in Africa by the year 2020. Regarding peace and security issues, the AUC Chairperson, H.E. Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat has underscored that Africa should continue to speak with one voice on major peace and security issues, especially through agreed common positions and do its best to Silence the Guns by 2020. Reiterating the importance of speaking with one voice H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki has said “whenever we have maintained our unity and spoken with one voice, we have won victories,” referencing the election of the AU endorsed candidate Dr Tedros Adhanom to the post of Director General of the World Health organization.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC) has pointed out the need to create links between decisions reached and the will to implement them and made proposals on how the challenge can be resolved. He said: “Either we take decisions and adopt the texts to apply to them or defer the adoption of these decisions until we are ready to implement them.” H.E. Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat has used the opportunity of his first address to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, to highlight actions undertaken since his Commission assumed office in March this year. He reported that his first step was reviewing programs initiated by all departments and this was followed by a retreat of the Commission to prioritize and align with the objectives for 2017 and 2018. Launching the AU reforms was the Commission’s second task. In this respect, he paid tribute to the wisdom and Pan African commitment of the current Chairperson of the Union, H.E. President Alpha Conde of Guinea and President Idris Deby Itno, the immediate past Chairperson of the Union and also to H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who is leading the AU reform process and providing concrete recommendations and guidance for implementation.
The 29th summit has also made strong commitments to promote the youth and discussed the issue of migration and employment. In this regard, a presentation was made by H.E. President Idris Deby Itno of Chad, who is the Leader on the AU theme of the year- “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.” His Excellency updated the summit on the various initiatives undertaken across the continent in line with the theme. Throughout the summit, which started on the 27th of June and ended on the 4th of July 2017, the AUC Chairperson emphasized on the need for the continent to give priority to conflict prevention and anticipation. Therefore, he called upon the regional groupings and mechanisms to intensify their actions, in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the African Union. He has also projected the work to be done by the January 2018 summit. H.E. Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat spoke about the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, especially the cooperation in peace and security, as well as the partnership with the European Union on issues of peace and security and the fight against terrorism and radicalism; economic, democratic and electoral governance issues.
The AUC Chairperson said, in order to deal with all conflicts, the AUC has decided to give priority to prevention and anticipation and he called upon the regional groupings and mechanisms to intensify their actions, in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the African Union. In relation to peace and security, H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki pledged to continue visiting areas where member states continue to face the scourges of wars and terrorism. He recalled that since taking office in March 2017, he had already been to Somalia, South Sudan, the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin. The Chairperson highlighted that new approaches of promoting peace are necessary and called for dialogue, reconciliation and the search for consensus solutions as the only path to peace. On the other hand, the AU Chairperson H.E. President Alpha Condé of Guinea was speaking at the opening of the two day Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government. Speaking at the opening ceremony called for a new era of self-reliance to drive development and end poverty on the continent.
In line with the theme of the Summit, H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki has said that African youth are hungry for action and want results. “In all the countries I have visited, the fears of women and young people are most poignant”, he said; adding that the AU must make decisions that translate this urgent social need into concrete action. Other priority areas highlighted by the Chairperson as needing attention include economic and political governance, investment and migration. He also underscored the importance of giving the African Union the capacity to deal with its challenges, noting that the progress made towards implementing the institutional reforms of the AU and commending the “excellent interaction” between the Commission and the H.E. President Kagame and his team.
The acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Abdalla Hamdok has noted the timeliness and relevance of this year’s theme in shaping the social, political and economic development debate of the continent. He said this while making his remarks during the opening ceremony.
On the other hand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guinea, H.E. Mrs Hadja Makalé Camara, thanked the AUC Chairperson for outlining the key focus areas for the Executive Council, stressing the need for the Council to accelerate the implementation of the AU financing and the continental free trade area to expedite Africa’s self-reliance. It is to be recalled that the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly held in January 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, adopted an Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade. Later, during the 25th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held on the 15th June 2015, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Assembly made another historic and strategic decision to launch the CFTA negotiations and adopting a framework and principles to guide the CFTA Negotiations.
We know that the Continental Free Trade Area is one of the priority areas of the First Ten Year Implementation Plan under African Union Agenda 2063. Thus, the Assembly had agreed on a Roadmap for the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) to be operationalized by an indicative date of 2017. In deciding to establish the CFTA, the Assembly has underlined that the level of ambition in trade in goods and trade in services should be sufficiently high.
This decision was made in order to ensure that the final Agreement is commercially meaningful and creates real economic opportunities for business persons within the continent and foreign investors. Subsequently, the 27th and 28th Ordinary AU Summits have reiterated the Heads of State and Government’s commitment to conclude the CFTA negotiations by 2017. Hence, the African Union Commission has worked with African Union Member States, Regional Economic Communities and key strategic partners to generate results.
H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou President of the Republic of Niger was mandated to champion the process of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Negotiations during the 28th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government. As Champion of the continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) process, he gave updated to the media on the progress made so far in the CFTA process at the end of the Summit.
During the closing ceremony, two Commissioners of the AUC were elected and sworn into office. Also, three members were elected to the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption and another four were elected as members of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. Finally, mention must be made about the donation of H.E. Mr. Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. His action clearly indicated a longing for a better and brighter Africa. Mr. Robert Mugabe has made a donation of one million USD to capacitate the African Union Foundation, during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa.
H.E President Mugabe said the funds were raised through the auction of more than 300 head of cattle owned by, him following a pledge he made to the African Union in 2015. Speaking at the handover event, the H.E. President Robert Mugabe recommended the use of innovative solutions to fund the Africa’s development agenda and called on all Africans to come together and build the continent “brick by brick, stone by stone.” With the concerted efforts of the sons and daughters of Africa we will realize a better and brighter Africa – The Africa We wanted most.