Terrorism expanding in Sahel region: African Union

By Addis Getachew

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AA) – Terrorism is expanding in the Sahel region — a region encompassing western and northwestern Africa, an African Union (AU) official said on Monday.

"The whole of West Africa is on alert," Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security told reporters following the closed-door 32nd Summit about the State of Security in Africa.

Chergui said that terrorism was expanding on a "daily basis" in the region and that Africa was ill-prepared against the threat which he said was "imported."

He described even Burkina Faso — a site of relative calm in West Africa — as facing an expanding menace of criminal and terrorist attacks.

– Libya

Chergui said the AU and UN agreed to cooperate on convening a national reconciliation conference in Libya. The date is yet to be announced, he added.

"Libyan people have suffered enough," he said, adding that it was armed groups, militias and external meddling that further complicated an already convoluted situation, without naming any single interfering foreign power.

He said that the planned reconciliation conference on Libya would be inclusive and that all Libyan stakeholders would take part, underlining that the country's situation affected neighboring countries as well, referring to a recent attack in Chad by armed men coming out of Libya.

– Somalia

On Somalia, Chergui said that while some challenges remained, progress was being made on "implementing the federal transitional plan."

"We want to prepare the Somali National Forces to take over security," he added, stressing that this could only be achieved after "positive development".

An African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) — a multinational armed intervention in the country located in the Horn of Africa — has been keeping the peace in Somalia as the militant group Al-Shabaab continues its attacks.

– South Sudan

Chergui said South Sudan was respecting the ceasefire as provided for in the peace deal reached by the warring parties on Sept. 12, 2018.

He appealed to the international community to provide the necessary financial resources for South Sudan to support the implementation of the peace process as opposing forces in the eastern African nation prepared to form a "Revitalized — Transitional Government of National Unity" in May.

Africa urged to accelerate institution building

By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema

ADDIS ABABA (AA) – Africa should accelerate building its own institutions in order to withstand U.S.-style unilateralism and preserve its place on the world stage African Union (AU) officials said on Thursday.

Chairman of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a speech that the rise of unilateralism as exemplified by the U.S. under President Donald Trump left African countries no alternative but to "close ranks."

Moussa made the opening speech of the 34th session of the AU Executive Council — a meeting of foreign ministers — in which the agenda was set for an upcoming AU leaders’ summit to be held on Sunday.

In the summit which is to focus on refugees and internally displaced persons, leaders will discuss a spate of issues ranging from the resolution of various conflicts to a continent-wide bank and a single passport.

Moussa further stressed that the continent needed to accelerate activities towards establishing common institutions such as the African Monetary Fund and the African Central Bank so as to withstand emerging global conditions in terms of economy and trade.

He said progress on the African Continental Free Trade Area showed encouraging progress as it is now set to go into force "in a few weeks."

The continent’s bid for a common civil aviation regulatory framework and a single passport would be "major steps to speed up the process of integration," he said.

– Africa hosts 37 percent of worldwide refugees

UN Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Vera Songwe said the 2019 AU summit theme "speaks to the deep fractures of humanity."

"Today, in our union we have 14.7 million internally displaced people and 7.3 million refugees," she said.

She added that two million people — mainly from the Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia — were displaced in the first half of 2018 alone.

Underlining that Africa shouldered the greatest amount of displaced people per capita, Songwe said the continent hosted about 37 percent of the world’s 19.6 million refugees with 39.1 million internally displaced people.

"Together Asia and Africa host about 97 per cent of the world refugee population and three-quarters of the world’s internally displaced population," she said.

She praised recent bill endorsed by the Ethiopian parliament to grant refugees special rights such as access to jobs, education.

– Palestine visibility –

Meanwhile, the State of Palestine, which is an observer at the AU, displayed an exhibition of photographs and paintings in the lobby of the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The gallery was themed on images of Palestine prior to its Arab population being driven out the 1948 by the new state of Israel.

The AU as a bloc unequivocally supports the State of Palestine.

Turkey, African Union sign agreement for Istanbul forum

By Addis Getachew

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Turkey and the African Union Commission agreed on Monday over the framework of a Turkey-Africa business forum in Istanbul next month.

Fatih Ulusoy, the Turkish permanent representative to the African Union (AU), and Victor Harison, the AU commissioner for economic affairs, signed the Cooperative Framework Arrangement at the AU headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The Second Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum will be held on Oct. 10-11 to seek the cooperation opportunities between Turkey and Africa and encourage Turkish and African entrepreneurs and investors.

After the signing ceremony Ulusoy said heads of states, officials and businesspeople from 50 African countries are expected to attend the forum what he described as “a very important event”.

“We hope this second forum will produce concrete business deals,” he said.

“[…] Up to $40m business deals were signed" in the first forum held last year in Istanbul, he added.

Harison, for his part, said: “Africa’s challenges are enormous. We need partners to help implement [the continent’s] flagship projects.”

“Turkey is the preferred partner of Africa,” he said, describing the cooperation and partnership that exists between Turkey and Africa as “symmetrical and mutually beneficial”.

The forum will provide a platform for the business circles from African countries to meet with their Turkish counterparts to develop new partnerships which aims to build together, produce together, sell what is produced together and share the profit.

Turkey has an observer status with the AU. It provides an annual contribution of $1million to the bloc.

King of Morocco addresses AU for 1st time in 34 years

By Seleshi Tessema and Addis Getachew

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Moroccan King Mohammed VI delivered a speech Tuesday to an assembly of the African Union (AU) heads of state and government for the first time in 34 years.

“It is a fine day when you come back home after many years of absence,” he said in his address at the closing session of the two-day AU summit.

“Africa is indispensable for Morocco and Morocco is important for Africa,” he said. “We can add impetus to the African [development] agenda.”

Morocco was readmitted into the African Union (AU) on Monday.

Morocco left the then Organization of African Unity — the predecessor of the African Union — in 1984 when the union recognized Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in West Sahara – a region Morocco still claims as part of its territory.

On Monday, Chadian Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat was elected to replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who stepped down after four years at the head of the AU Commission.