On Monday, African Union Commission chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, made a plea for leaders to walk the walk, not just talk the talk in his address to dozens of heads of state at the opening of the AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Mahamat implored African leaders to balance their decisions and actions. Notably, leaders from Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, and Malawi were absent.
“An infinite number of decisions being passed by the AU should not go without due consideration for modalities of implementation,” said the Chadian politician.
He also expressed grave concern over conflicts which have contributed to violence in South Sudan, Libya, Mali, the Chad Lake basin, and the Sahel (south Sahara border) region.
Mahamat also pointed out that peace and security remain a great concern.
"The situation in South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, the Central African Republic, the fragile relations between Djibouti and Eritrea, the difficulties in the application of peace accords in Mali, where the Jihadi terrorism is active, the political situations in certain African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, are sufficient in justifying these worries," he added.
The two-day summit is centered on the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investing in the Youth.”
More than a billion of the African continent's population are young adults, the median age is 19 years old.
Jobs for young people, as well as migration, peace, security, and financing institutional reform, will likely dominate discussions at the two-day summit.
Mugabe donates $1 million to the African Union
In his address at the summit, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe pledged $1 million to the African Union, in a bid to encourage other African countries to fund the union programs.
About 60 percent of the AU spending has been financed by outside donors including the European Union, World Bank and governments of non-African countries.
Mugabe stressed that reliance on foreign funding allows interference in the work of the AU. “Africa needs to finance its own program. Institutions like the AU cannot rely on donor funding as the model is not sustainable,” Mugabe said.
The 93-year-old said he had auctioned 300 cattle from his personal herd in May to fulfill a promise made to the continental body two years ago.
The African Union’s 2017 budget is $782 million, increasing from $416.8 million last year.
The top five African contributors are Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa
Djibouti asks for observers at Eritrea border at Qatar pullout
Djibouti foreign minister, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, implored the African Union to deploy observers along its disputed border with Eritrea since Qatar had withdrawn its peace-keeping troops two weeks ago.
The Qataris troops were sent to the region after clashes broke out between Eritrea and Djibouti in 2008, but were pulled out without warning on June 14.
Qatar did not provide a reason for the withdrawal, but it came days after both Djibouti and Eritrea sided with Gulf Arab nations that had broken off relations with Qatar.
"The Qatari forces left on short notice without really preparing the ground. Leaving the status quo was not in the best interest of both countries," the minister told Reuters.
"We proposed to the African Union that it take over the disputed side and fill the gap. We need the African Union to act very quickly," he said.
The African Union had previously urged both nations to exercise restraint and said it would deploy a fact-finding mission to the disputed area.
Diplomats said Eritrea did not respond to the request.
Youssouf said a potential African Union deployment could involve conflict-prevention experts or members of a regional "standby force" the union is setting up.
Morocco-Sahrawi tempers flare
Morocco and Algeria-backed Polisario Front’s Sahrawi Democratic Republic (SDR) exchanged harsh words at the summit.
On Saturday, an earlier confrontation took place inside the AU headquarters. The disagreement stemmed from the wording in a human rights report by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) that referred to Western Sahara as “occupied territories”.
The report also called for a mission to be sent to the area to evaluate human rights concerns.
The Moroccan delegation objected the paragraph and demanded that it be removed or modified, which led to heated verbal exchanges with the Sahrawi and Algerian delegations.
Nigeria tried to mediate to no avail.
On Sunday evening, the council stated that while some delegations had suggested sending a human rights evaluation mission to the territories referred to by the United Nations as Western Sahara and the AU as SDR, the proposal was rejected by other delegations.
ACHPR’s president, South African Faith Pansy Tlakula, recommended that the Commission should engage in “constructive dialogue” with Morocco to come up with a simple wording that would remove the term “occupied territories” while still expressing the position of the other parties involved.
Abbas pushes for Israeli exclusion
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke at the opening, pleaded with the African leaders to reject Israel’s bid to “participate in the workings of the African Union.”
“Letting Israel participate in the workings of the AU would encourage it to continue its occupation and oppressive stance,” he said.
In recent years Israel has been attempting to curry favor with several African nations to further its bid to gain observer status in the union.
Malawi cancels, budget cuts
The cancellation of Malawi president's trip to the summit was a result of government cuts to internal and external travels of the head of state and cabinet ministers.
“I can confirm that the President is not going to the summit,” said Presidential press secretary and spokesman Mgeme Kalilani.
Malawi, instead, will be represented by its envoy in Addis Ababa, Chimango Chirwa.