Eritrea-Ethiopia and other conflicts focus of AU Summit
AFP, 4 July, 2004 - More than 40 leaders from across the
continent are expected at this week's summit of the African Union, where
conflicts such as those in western Sudan's Darfur region, the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ivory Coast are expected to take centre stage.
Also up for discussion are Eritrea and Ethiopia, Somalia,
the Indian Ocean's Comoro islands, and Burundi.
Darfur, a vast semi-arid region in Africa's largest country to which atrocities
by pro-government militia have brought considerable international media
attention of late.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has just visited the
region and who is trying to mobilise the international community, arrived in
Addis Ababa on Saturday night and is due to speak at the opening of the summit
Over recent days Annan has congratulated the AU for its
efforts to resolve the conflict and especially for having deployed military
observers to monitor a shaky ceasefire signed by rebels and Khartoum in April.
He said he was studying how the UN could boost its support
for the AU.
Alpha Oumar Konare, the chairman of the AU's executive
Commission, went Friday to Chad, which shares a border with Darfur, and
anounced that political negotiations would start in Addis Ababa on July 15.
"The problem in Darfur is political, its solution is
political, so there is a need for the parties to quickly engage in political
negotiation," he said in the Chadian capital during the inaugural meeting
of a joint commission set up to monitor the ceasefire.
The risk of a third war in less than a decade in DRC, and
hence the stability of all its neighbouring countries, is also of great concern
to the AU, which has repeatedly warned that there can be no prosperity in
Africa without peace and stability.
Fears of renewed conflict were raised in late May, when
former rebels theoretically integrated into a new national army rose up against
their regular peers in the east of the country, prompting Kinshasa to accuse
its old enemy Rwanda of involvement.
"Our organisation is deeply involved in managing
problems between DR Congo and Rwanda," Konare told foreign ministers
preparing the agenda ahead of the summit.
He said it was up to the AU to rescue the transition process
in DRC, which has also been threatened by coup attempts in the capital.
Annan is also due to discuss the situation in the former
Zaire with the heads of state.
Ivory Coast, which hasn't settled down since a rebellion
erupted in September 2001, is the third major theatre of unrest on the summit
"We must continue our support for brother (President)
Laurent Gbago and Ivorian political leaders to avoid a new and serious
derailment," Konare said.
Konare wants the summit to commit to "urgently setting
up the common defence and security policy", an initiative born at the same
time as the AU and since constantly finetuned.
A key element of this policy is the Peace and Security
Council - a decision-making body similar to the UN's Security Council - which
came into being earlier this year.
The summit will also witness the unveiling of a three-year
strategic plan for the continent, a document central to the AU's ambitions to
distance itself from its defunct and ineffective predecessor, the Organisation
of African Unity.
Konare said "those who defy the rule of law,
corruption and the impunity that accompanies human rights abuses keep Africa
mired in conflict and compromise all sustainable development initiatives".
The plan has a budget of some $1.7 billion, money the AU
doesn't have and which member states and the international community will be
asked to provide.