By Mirembe Martina
The African Union Summit kicked off with the selection of a new chairman.
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn was elected the new African Union President, taking over from Mr. Thomas Boni Yayi, the Benin leader. At the opening ceremony,the AU Chairperson, Dlamini-Zuma said the ability to maintain peace in the African continent was needed. “Optimistic as we are, we are mindful of the enormous challenges that remain. We cannot overemphasize the need for peace and security. Without peace and security, no country or region can expect to achieve prosperity for all of its citizens,” he said.
The 54 member summit is concentrating on peace, especially in Mali. According to the outgoing chairman, Boni Yayi, the response of the leaders to the conflict in Mali was too slow, and thanked France for taking the lead in its military intervention in the country. The Summit started 21st January to 28th in Addis Ababa.
A security meeting on Friday saw the AU give member states one week to commit troops to the mission in Mali. “We definitely know, based on the first assumptions… that the force size will have to be significantly augmented,” AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters after the security meeting.
In Mali, soldiers from Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad are already deployed as the operation, which was originally a West African (ECOWAS) problem has expanded to include other African nations as well as France. The force was originally to include some 3,300 troops, but countries have now pledged nearly 6,000.
“We should do everything possible to help restore constitutional order in Mali, safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and address the humanitarian crisis in collaboration with ECOWAS, the United Nations, and other international partners,” newly elected AU President, Hailemariam said.
Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addressed the assembly saying, “Let me wholeheartedly thank you all on behalf of Somali citizens for the support and the commitment and the blood lost by the African Union and their soldiers to bring our beloved motherland back to civilization and stability,” he said. The summit is also taking into consideration the Congo rebellion of the M23 rebels among other things.
The summit is to conclude Monday, today.