Conflict in Africa, especially the violence of Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgents, and efforts to stem Ebola is top of the agenda as African leaders gather for their annual summit this week. While the official theme of the African Union meeting will be women’s empowerment, leaders from the 54-member bloc will once again be beset by a string of crises across the continent when they meet at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital on Friday and Saturday.
AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has said she is “deeply horrified” at the rise of Boko Haram, has said she will use the summit to drum up “renewed collective African efforts” to tackle the Islamists.
Boko Haram are “not just a threat to some countries, it is a threat to the whole continent,” Dlamini-Zuma said this week, with pressure mounting to set up a regional five-nation force of some 3,000 troops, currently stalled amid arguments between Nigeria and its neighbours.
More than 13,000 people have been killed and more than one million made homeless by Boko Haram violence since 2009.
With over a dozen elections due to take place this year across Africa, the focus will also be on how to ensure peaceful polls. The Institute for Security Studies, an African think-tank, warns that “many of these are being held in a context that increases the risk of political violence.”
Wars in South Sudan and the Central African Republic — both nations scheduled to hold elections — as well as in Libya are also due to draw debate.
South Sudan’s warring parties are due to meet on the sidelines of the summit, in the latest push for a lasting peace deal, with six previous ceasefire commitments never holding for more than a few days — and sometime just hours — on the ground.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in more than a year of civil war, with peace talks led by the regional East African bloc IGAD due to restart on Friday.
The question of membership to the International Criminal Court is also set to be debated. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who last month celebrated the dropping of crimes against humanity charges against him at The Hague-based ICC, will again be lobbying other leaders to push for an alternative African court that will rival what he has branded the anti-African ICC.
As leaders prepare to meet, observers say the real deals are struck on the sidelines of the talks, with past summits full of unfulfilled promises.
“The AU makes very lengthy statements and declarations with no effective follow-up or implementation. This frustrates many people,” said Solomon Dersso of the Institute for Security Studies. top the agenda as African leaders gather for their annual summit this week.