Jean Ping calls for increased unity at start of AU summit

The African Union Commission has, over the past year, “endeavoured to promote the unity of Africa, always and everywhere, as this is an imperative for the success of collective African action”, declared the Commission’s chairperson, Jean Ping, on Sunday, at the opening in Addis Ababa of the summit of the heads of state and government of the AU.

“With unity, success is more than a probability, while in division, failure is a certainty”, Ping warned.

He said that, although marked by multiple political and humanitarian crises, 2011 had also been a year “which opened the door to many opportunities”. These included the possibility for peaceful relations between Sudan and South Sudan following the latter’s independence, “the strengthening of democracy on the continent in the wake of the popular uprisings in north Africa”, and stabilization in Ivory Coast, after the end of the post-election crisis.

Ping admitted that these events “have greatly strained some of our instruments and consequently our capacity to anticipate. Sometimes they tested the strength of our unity”.

Nonetheless, he thought the AU “has demonstrated a real capacity for adaptation”. Although it did not foresee the north African insurrections, “it very quickly grasped their historic scope and their democratic promises”.

Ping claimed that the AU had maintained its leadership in such matters as “the initiatives taken regarding Somalia, the relations between Sudan and South Sudan and the fight against the Lords Resistance Army”.

The AU Commission, he added, had “pursued the efforts towards the full operationalisation of the African Peace and Security architecture”. In particular, staff officers from the East African Regional Brigade had been deployed to the headquarters of the AU Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. “This is the first ever deployment of elements of the African Standby Force, which will reach its full operational capacity in 2015”, Ping said.

“In Somalia, the AU peace support operation has, under particularly difficult circumstances, accomplished work of which Africa can be proud”, he declared. “Never before have prospects for peace in Somalia appeared so real”.

As for the rocky relations between Sudan and South Sudan, which concern South Sudanese accusations that the north is stealing its oil, Ping said the two countries “should conclude in earnest negotiations on the outstanding aspects of post-secession arrangements”.

He warned that “the unilateral measures taken by both governments, if not immediately reversed, will undermine the agreed principle of two viable states living side by side in peace, and mutually supportive”.

Ping noted that there is now considerable optimism for the prospects of African economies. Economic growth on the continent as a whole in 2011 was between five and six per cent, but some countries reached double digit growth rates.

This success was due, not only to the export of raw materials, but also “to the initiatives we have taken to promote political and economic good governance, the reduction in the number of conflicts, the increase in domestic demand and improvements in the business climate”.

He called for speedier economic integration and for member states to take seriously the theme of this summit – boosting intra-African trade. “African countries do not trade enough among themselves”, said Ping, “while the growth of intra-African trade would lay the foundations for stronger and more sustainable economic growth”.

The continent needed a stronger AU, Ping insisted, but that would depend on the member states “making substantial and predictable resources available to the AU”.

In order to meet the ambitious tasks it has set itself, he warned, the AU “cannot continue to depend overwhelmingly on extra-budgetary resources provided by international partners”.

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Post published in: Africa News

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