African Leaders Discuss Conflicts, Agriculture

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Addis Ababa, 31 January 2014 (WIC) - The 22nd AU summit opened on January 30, 2014 with focus on South Sudan, CAR and DRC.

The armed conflicts in the Central African Republic, CAR and South Sudan, dominated the agenda as Africa's leaders yesterday, January 30, 2014, gathered for a two-day summit of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Though the gathering, opened by African Union chairman and Ethiopian Prime, Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, has as theme, "Transforming Africa's Agriculture: Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development," the continent's conflict hotspots, including the instability in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, are also being discussed, agency reports said.

"Our hearts go to the people of the Central African Republic and South Sudan who face devastating conflicts in their countries; and especially to women and children who've become the victims," the African Union, AU Commission Chair, Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, said at the opening. She urged African leaders to work together to ensure that they build lasting peace. She emphasized the need to commit more efforts to 'Agenda 2063' for a peaceful and prosperous Africa.

Speaking at a ministerial-level meeting this week, Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom, lamented that "humanitarian tragedies are unfolding in the two countries at a time when we are talking about 'African renaissance'." The humanitarian disaster in CAR where a 5,300-strong AU-led MISCA force is deployed alongside 1,600 French soldiers, is a key talking point. CAR descended into chaos 10 months ago after rebels overthrew the government, sparking sectarian violence that has uprooted a million people out of a population of 4.6 million.

After the official summit closes today, African leaders and Western diplomats will tomorrow, February 1, 2014, hold a conference to raise funds for MISCA. "What we hope for is strong support for MISCA to enable it implement its mandate more effectively," explained the Director of the AU Peace and Security Council, El-Ghassim Wane.

According to the AU web site, yesterday's opening also included a minute's silence in memory of former South African President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, speeches by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Hery M. Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana, the newly elected President of Madagascar. A new AU Chair was also expected to be elected and prizes handed to winners of the 2014 Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Awards. (allafrica)