18th AU Summit opens in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - African leaders kicked off a two-day Summit here Sunday, to discuss pressing continental matters and seek new ways to boost regional trade, credited with current economic growth in most countries.

South Sudan, the newest member of the 54-member organization, is attending its first official Summit as a full member, amid a simmering crisis with its northern neighbour over the terms of exporting its crude oil through the Port of Sudan on the northern frontier.

An attempt by regional leaders to mediate the stand-off with the North over the sharing of revenues for the use of the oil transportation facilities, proved futile, after the South Sudanese leader, Salva Kiir, said he needed more time to consult with his delegation on the deal.

The exact details of the deal, currently being negotiated with the help of African Union mediating panel, were not immediately available.

But Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said they tackled the long-term challenges which must be overcome for the sake of stability and to the benefit of the two Sudanese states.

Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, wanted at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s war crimes court, for crimes against humanity and genocide, is also likely to come face-to-face with the incoming ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia.

The new Prosecutor has been at the AU Summit, but being an Observer, her status does not allow her the right to attend detailed discussions on the agenda of the AU Summit, other than public opening and closing statements.

The crisis in North Africa, which saw the forced exit of veteran regional leaders from power and left most countries in a shaky transitional period, is expected to dominate the Summit’s opening speeches.

The leaders retreated to a room at the new AU Centre, a US$ 200 million gift from China, to discuss the composition of the incoming AU Summit Chairman and key office holders for the new term.

Benin’s President Yayi Boni is expected to be endorsed as the new Chairman to replace President of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema.

PANA reports that the Summit opened with a minute’s silence for African leaders who have passed on during the last six months, including eminent integration mobiliser, Mouammar Kadhafi, whose dream plan of transforming African into a single country, is expected for debate on Monday.

The leaders also planted a tree in commemoration of the late Kenyan environmentalist, Wangari Maathai, who passed on after a battle with ovarian cancer.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 29Jan2012  

29 janvier 2012 08:05:55

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