Ethiopia takes over AU reins

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia —African leaders have elected Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn as the new chairperson of the African Union (AU) replacing Benin President Boni Yayi at a time the pan-African bloc is grappling with increasing conflicts on the continent.

REPORT BY WISDOM MDZUNGAIRI IN ADDIS ABABA

A new chairperson is elected on a rotational basis every January at the annual summit.

Other members of the new bureau include the first vice-chair Mauritania; Mozambique and Chad while outgoing AU chair Boni Yayi becomes the rapporteur.

Before Yayi took over the AU chairmanship, it had successively been occupied by northern, southern and central Africa.

The last time East Africa chaired the AU was in 2008 when Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete served as head of the pan-African body.

Dessalegn, who assumed his role at the opening of 20th Ordinary Session of AU assembly, urged countries that will hold elections this year to respect the will of the people saying the smooth conduct of the elections would help in expanding democratic governance on the continent.

“We should consolidate the gains that we have made . . . and deepen the roots of democratic governance so as to create a propitious condition for our socio-economic endeavour,” he said.

“The situation in the DRC has deteriorated recently. We should assist regional initiatives to address the complex security situation in DRC.”

It is the first time the country has occupied the seat since the founding of the AU in 1963, though previous Ethiopian leaders, including late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, served as chair of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the AU.

Addressing the African leaders, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon attacked the culture of impunity among some African leaders, saying that would derail demoractic governance on the continent.

He also said although some of the world’s fastest growing economies were in Africa, he was disappointed by conflicts playing out in Mali, the DRC, Somalia, Guinea Bissau, Sudan/South Sudan and Central Africa Republic.

“On the sidelines of this summit, I hope that regional leaders will endorse a Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework to address the structural causes of the recurring cycles of violence,” Ban said.

“Many people have made important gains towards the Millennium Development Goals. More African children are in schools, especially girls. Our destination is clear: A future where Africa’s wealth enriches all of Africa’s people.”

The opening ceremony was also attended by Palestine Liberation Organisation President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Robert Mugabe, among dozens of other leaders.

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