Mar 2015

AU maps the road ahead for the continent

Written by Chris Bathembu

International relations

More than 50 African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January for the annual Heads of State and Government Summit. Some of the decisions taken included the following:
Dealing with Boko Haram

African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma says African leaders will focus on dealing with major the issues troubling the continent.A few months ago, not many people knew about Boko Haram. It was the terrorist group kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls that they began to be noticed and caused widespread panic throughout the continent.

Some 276 teenagers from the government-controlled Girls' Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok, in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, were kidnapped on the evening of 14 April last year.

Although about 57 girls managed to escape, the rest are still being held captive. With reports that some of them were being used as suicide bombers, calls have intensified for tougher measures to fight Boko Haram.

And with the group’s attacks increasingly spilling over from Nigeria into neighbouring nations, the African Union (AU) has been forced to increase its efforts to break the back of this terrorist group. During the recent summit in Ethiopia, heads of state endorsed a decision to send more than 8 000 troops to fight the terrorists’ insurgency in northern Nigeria. The move came after five west African countries agreed that they would send troops to fight Boko Haram, which escalated its attacks in February ahead of the national elections in Nigeria.

Chad already has troops fighting Boko Haram on two fronts, with soldiers deployed in Niger and Nigeria. The summit also authorised the establishment of a Trust Fund by the United Nations to sustain the operations of the task force and the international community was called upon to provide support to the force.

Intensifying the Ebola fight

With regard to Ebola, the heads of state recommended the extension of the mandate of the AU Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. The leaders called upon member states who have not yet done so, to lift all restrictions imposed on Ebola-affected countries and requested the international financial institutions and partner countries to cancel the debt of the three affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. By February, deaths from Ebola in the three countries had exceeded 7 000 since the outbreak of the deadly disease in 2014.

Now the AU wants to speed up the process for the establishment of the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention by June this year. The coordination office for the centre, to be funded by member states, should initially be at the headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa.

Peace and security

The summit tasked the Peace and Security Council of the AU to immediately report deployment of the African intervention forces within 90 days or to the next meeting of the Assembly for rectification.

Two years ago the AU decided to establish a continent-wide response force called the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (Acirc) to deal with crises such as coups in the continent. Countries, including South Africa, contributing troops to the Acirc were expected to pay for a mass of about 1 000 troops. It is meant to be a temporary measure until the permanent African Standby Force is established.

Emergency relief to Malawi and Mozambique

South Africa reported that it had sent a disaster management team to Malawi in January in response to floods and resultant humanitarian situation in the country.

On the emergency situation in Mozambique, which was similarly caused by floods in January 2015, the Mozambican government requested South Africa’s assistance with relief efforts.

The South African National Defence Force, in conjunction with the Mozambican Defence Force and the National Disaster Management Institute of Mozambique, were deployed to carry out various flood relief efforts.

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