The 24th AU Summit: what to expect

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The theme of the 24th African Union (AU) summit being in held in Addis Ababa from 23 to 31 January is ‘Women’s empowerment and the development towards Agenda 2063’.

There will be a dedicated session on this theme and 2015 is expected to be declared ‘The year of women’s empowerment’. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the AU Commission, will also present a report on the current work being done on Agenda 2063 – a continental blueprint to achieve a peaceful and prosperous continent in the decades ahead.

However, the attention of leaders at the summit will mostly be focused on the various compelling peace and security issues in Africa. These will be discussed in plenary sessions and on the sidelines of the official meetings. They include the dire situation in South Sudan, where the peace process is at a stalemate and a new round of fighting could break out at the end of the rainy season in the country.

There will be a summit-level Peace and Security Council meeting on South Sudan that, among others, will consider the Report of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan.

The attention of leaders at the summit will mostly be focused on the various compelling peace and security issues in Africa

The situation in Libya, with the meeting of the international contact group on Libya taking place during the summit, will also be an issue to watch. This is a very complex crisis because of the serious political and security problems facing the country. Talks being held in Geneva are aimed at solving the urgent matter of two parallel governments in the country. Deep divisions between international actors – a legacy of the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya – persist. It remains to be seen whether the meeting of the international contact group on Libya will iron out the differences between various actors, including the AU, the European Union and the United Nations.

Another issue that lacks a unified response from actors involved in the crisis is the terror threat posed by the Nigerian group Boko Haram. The atrocities committed by the group continue to make headlines, but mobilisation on the regional and sub-regional level is being hampered by mistrust and lack of coordination. Initiatives such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin joint military response can only work if Nigeria takes the lead. At this stage, however, Nigerian leaders and the country’s elite are preoccupied with the fiercely contested February 2015 elections. Niger, which hosted an important regional summit on Boko Haram on 20 January, has requested a debate during the assembly on the theme ‘Continent-wide solidarity against Boko Haram’.

During the summit there will also be a meeting of the Mechanism of the Peace and Security Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Region. Given the disarmament deadline issued by the Southern African Development Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern DRC, this issue will also receive a lot of attention at the summit.

The AU Ebola Fund, which includes contributions from the private sector, will be launched at the summit

In addition, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the AU’s efforts to help combat the disease is also on the summit’s agenda. The AU Ebola Fund, which includes contributions from the private sector, will be launched at the summit. Important steps needed to tackle the socioeconomic and security consequences of Ebola, beyond containing the current outbreak, form part of these discussions.

Finally, a number of other issues for the AU, such as its relationship with the International Criminal Court, will also be discussed.

Special guests at the summit are Dr Nabil Al-Arabi, secretary-general of the Arab League, and Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine, who will speak to African leaders during the closing session on 31 January.

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