18th AU Summit opens, Chairperson calls to speed up economic integration
Addis Ababa, 29 January 2012 – Holding under the theme: “Boosting Intra-African Trade”, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) kicked off today, 29 January 2012, at the new African Union Conference Center (AUCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Heads of State as well as heads of delegations of the 54 African Union member countries proceeded in the morning with a tree planting ceremony at a site identified for that purpose within the premises of the new building at the AU headquarters. It was a symbolic act aimed at sensitizing the African population on the need to preserve green vegetation to fight drought on the continent.
The opening ceremony of the 18th AU Summit was presided over by the outgoing Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. This was Mr. Mbasogo’s last day as AU Chairperson, as the Heads of State were due to elect another Chairperson in the rotating Chairmanship of the Union. President Obiang passed over the baton of command to Mr. Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin who will lead the African Union for the year 2012. President Obiang presented the achievement of the AU during his chairmanship and called for greater involvement of the AU speaking with one voice at international forums.
The guest of honor at this occasion was Mr. Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference of the Peoples’ Republic of China in recognition of the gift of the AUCC, which was built by the Chinese Government, as a gift to the people of Africa.
The Assembly of Heads of State holding for the very first time in the plenary of the new AUCC was an inaugural meeting in the presence of several personalities including Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations; the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, the Commissioners of the AUC; representatives of AU Organs and Missions; former Heads of State; former Secretary Generals of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); the Diplomatic Corps; representatives of the international community and invited guests.
Addressing the Assembly, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Jean Ping, presented the high moments of the year 2011, which he described as a tough period for the Union, as several outbreaks hindering the peace process on the continent had been of great concern to the leadership of the AU. He saluted the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and welcomed the newly elected leaders into the AU Assembly. They are: Dr. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, President of the Republic of Tunisia; Dr. Abdurrahim El Kieb, Prime Minister of Libya; Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan; Mr. Micheal Sata, President of the Republic of Zambia; and Mr. Carlos Fonseca; President of the Republic of Cape Verde. While thanking the Member States for the valuable support that contributed to the African Union’s efforts to resolve most of the conflict situations and humanitarian issues in the horn of Africa, Chairperson Ping underscored the need for the AU to be stronger. “But in order to do so, it needs substantial and predictable resources… there is need to speed up economic integration of the continent”, he noted, adding that conflict prevention should be at the center of all policies in the AU.
On the other hand, the guest of honour, Mr. Jia Qinglin, stressed on the existing friendship between Africa and China. “Since the beginning of the 21st century, the China-Africa relationship has grown rapidly and made progress on all fronts.” He added that, the establishment and development of the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) and the new type of strategic partnership between the two, has boosted bilateral exchanges in the political, economic, trade and cultural fields, making the friendship between the people deeper.
Mr. Qinglin further pointed out that, China attaches great importance to its relations with the AU, which it considers as a key cooperation partner in African and international affairs. He explained that China is ready to work with the AU to improve the strategic dialogue and enhance cooperation in cross-border and cross-region infrastructure development in Africa especially in the areas of peace and security.
The Secretary General of the UN lauded the great achievement of China in providing a magnificent conference centre to the AU which he said will be of great importance to Africa. He expressed satisfaction on the partnership between the UN and the AU saying that the UN will continue to support the efforts for democracy and shared values. “I am committed to deepening the ties between the AU and the UN … united we can make good progress” , he noted. Mr. Ban Ki Moon underlined that both the AU and the UN must see how effectively and quickly the two institutions are able to respond to crises.
Addressing the Assembly, President Marzouki, underlined that Tunisia will do its best to preserve peace within the country and in the region. “We will play an active role in the development process of the continent”, he unlined, reiterating the need to restore the people’s dignity and democracy in the country. “We believe in Africa because Africa is the continent of the future”, he noted.
Taking the floor later, Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Kieb, informed on the post conflict reconstruction measures underway in Libya. He thanked all those who helped in the democratisation process of the country.
Also featuring on the opening ceremony of the Summit was the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards Ceremony which was awarded to two successful African Scientists: Prof. Oluwole Daniel Makinde, recipient of the Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation Award; and Prof. Maryke Tine Labuschagne, recipient of the Life and Earth Science Award. The awards were presented by the Nobel Peace Laureate Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia; Mr. John Atta-Mills, President of the Republic of Ghana and Hon. Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, daughter of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a revolutionary and one of the founding fathers of the OAU.
AU Summit to Discuss President’s Report of Activity:
The AU Heads of State and Government will consider the recommendations of the Executive Council on the report of the Commission on the implementation of previous decisions of the Executive Council and the Assembly; the report of the Peace and Security Council on its activities and the state of peace and security in Africa, including the activities of the Panel of the Wise; the report Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Chairperson of NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC); and his report on the 17th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 17), that took place in Durban, South Africa, 28 November – 9 December 2011.
The Presidents and Heads of Delegations will also exchange views on the report of Mr. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo and Africa’s Coordinator on Africa’s preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) with respect to the Common Position and Strategies vis-à-vis the challenges posed by the global economy and the international governance of the environment. They will discuss the report of Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Chairperson of the Committee of Ten on the UN Reforms and that of Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, on the 4th High Level Forum on Aid effectiveness held in Busan, South Korea, 29 November – 1st December 2011.
Other issues under consideration by the Heads of State are the progress report of the Commission on the implementation of Assembly Decisions on the Hissene Habre Case and the progress report of the Commission on the transformation of the African Union Commission into the African Union Authority among others.
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