Conflict resolution tops agenda as African leaders arrive for summit

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - African leaders started arriving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Friday, for Sunday's African Union (AU) summit that is expected to deal with renewed conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR), Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia as well as Sudan and South Sudan.

The summit is expected to take decisive measures to deal with the conflicts as well as to prevent putative ones, amid growing criticism of inertia on the part of the continent's leaders.

"Africa should think about prevention of conflicts," said Jean Bosco Butera, Director of the African Programme at the University of Peace. "They must start to identify areas of potential conflicts, especially where human rights violations is an issue."

Experts warn that contested elections, human rights violations and the illegal constitutional amendments to remove term limits for incumbent leaders have made it much harder for those opposing governments to succeed peacefully.

"The African Union is very much concerned over the tendency to resort to armed rebellion. We strongly condemn these and we believe using arms should not be a way to settle claims. There is space to put forward the political claims," said El Ghassi Wane, AU Commission's Director of Peace and Security.

Among the items on the summit's agenda will be the deployment of the International Neutral Force (INF) to deal with the crisis in Eastern DRC, the strengthening of the Africa-led International Support Mission to Mali and the fate of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Experts insist the problem faced by Africa in dealing with conflicts is not just lack of resources to tackle complex military operations, but the need to enhance the continent's peacekeeping capacity.

They say it is also important for leaders to be decisive and impartial when dealing with conflicts that require leadership and statesmanship to dutifully resolve through the implementation of agreed set of actions, mostly as designated by the continental body.

Wane admits that following up on the implementation of agreed actions is also a key setback.

"We face political challenges. These deter the implementation of the AU decisions to achieve coordinated synergy required. But we believe Africa is playing its role in dealing with conflict situations," he said.

The AU has been working on the launch of its standby military force, expected to deal with social and political challenges that might deteriorate into a military crisis and other natural disasters related to climate change.

The plan is part of the African Peace and Security Architecture, which has seen the creation of the 15-member Peace and Security Council that has most notably been engaged in dealing with conflicts and military power seizures.

Butera said part of what is required to deal with the peace and security challenges is research and data as well as the implementation of agreed policies to deal with conflicts.

"We have the African Charter and the African Common Defence and Security pacts. The major challenge is how best to apply these and how best the available resources can be used. We need to look at all elements of conflict," he said.

For his part, Desire Assogbavi, Oxfam International's Head in Addis Ababa, said efforts to prevent conflicts would be dependent on the holding of credible elections and the future role that electoral observers would play in dealing with those conflicts.

"Condemning the fairness or the unfairness of any coup is not going to be easy in some instances when consistent human rights abuses are recorded and elections are manipulated to suit those in power and the regional economic blocs endorse them," Assogbavi told PANA.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 25Jan2013 

25 january 2013 09:36:57

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