Tasks before new AU Chair Cyril Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

AS the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa leads the AU to ‘silencing the guns’ in Africa, it is expected that the ‘Ghost of Xenophobia’ does not rise again during his tenure.


By Goddy Ikeh

THE President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has taken over the chairmanship of the African Union, AU, from his Egyptian counterpart, President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, at the just concluded AU Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Obviously, Ramaphosa is assuming the leadership of the organization at the crucial, though critical stage in the affairs of the continent, which is about to launch the largest single global market in July in the midst of a number of conflicts.

In his speech after accepting the mantle of leadership, Ramaphosa pledged to focus attention on resolving the conflicts in Libya and South Sudan. Resolving these conflicts is no mean task for the South African leader, who is expected to receive support from his fellow African leaders and the United Nations since the Summit resolved to push ahead with resolving conflicts in the continent.

The report by Channels Television on the Summit said that the AU leadership complained that it was usually overlooked in the Libya-related peacemaking efforts, which have been led primarily by the UN and some European nations.

The report, which was culled from the AFP report, quoted Smail Chergui, the AU’s Peace and Security Council chief, as saying that the AU would offer assistance to revive Libya’s faltering peace process.

“It’s (the) UN itself which needs us now,” Chergui said. “It’s time to bring this situation to an end… the two organisations should work hand-in-hand for that goal,” he said.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, while the South Sudan civil war that began in 2013, has left hundreds of thousands dead and talks on the sidelines of the AU summit at resolving the crisis, ended in a deadlock.

The report recalled that during the Summit, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to the claims by African leaders that they were not involved in the efforts to resolve the Libyan war and assured them that he understood their “frustration” at having “been put aside” on the issue of Libya.

The situation in Libya has remained chaotic, with the country split between the strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls eastern Libya, and the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The report noted that talks between Libya’s warring factions during the Summit ended with no deal on a ceasefire. But the UN has proposed a second round of negotiations for February 18.

According to the report, Chergui assured that the AU could support peace if a cessation of hostilities agreement is finally signed, declaring that the AU wanted to be part of an observer mission to ensure any deal is respected.

“This is an African problem, and we have a certain sense that maybe others do not have,” Chergui said.

On the South Sudan conflict, the report said that Ramaphosa had a taste of what awaits him, when on the sideline of the Summit, he met separately with President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Macha, who sat down in the same room alongside Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and yet no breakthrough was achieved. But President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar face a deadline of February 22 to form a unity government — a milestone that was delayed twice last year.

With the Summit, which had the theme “Silencing the Guns” over, some African scholars and observers demand more pragmatic efforts at resolving conflicts in the continent to give meaning to the theme of the Summit. They believe that the huge African single market can only be successful in a peaceful and conflict-free Africa and that no meaningful development can be achieved in a continent confronted with numerous conflicts that are mostly political and self-inflicted.  While Africans await actions geared toward “Silencing the Guns” in the continent, Ramaphosa is expected to ensure that the ghost of Xenophobia does not rise again in his country as he chairs the AU and that the African single market takes off smoothly under his watch.

And for the Nigerian leader and his delegation, the Summit provided an opportunity for a state visit to Ethiopia as both countries signed a visa waiver agreement for diplomatic and official passport holders and a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on cooperation in the field of Defence.

According to a statement by Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, the signing of the deals was performed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, and his Ethiopian counterpart, Gedu Andargachew, during the State Visit of the Nigerian leader.

The report added that the Ethiopian Prime Minister and President Buhari explored new areas of collaboration to further enhance and expand Nigeria-Ethiopia bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefits of the two countries.

The visa waiver agreement, he explained, would ease travels by officials and contribute to further strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries.

According to Shehu, the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation is important to both countries in their fight against terrorism and securing peace and stability in their respective sub-regions, as well as on the continent of Africa.

The MoU is also expected to enhance bilateral military cooperation in the areas of training education, technical assistance, exchange of visits and defence technology transfer. It will also cover cooperation in peace, support operation issues within the framework of the respective laws of the parties and on a reciprocal basis.

”Both sides agreed to swiftly conclude negotiations on the revised Bilateral Air Services Agreement and the MoU on cultural cooperation. The consummation of these two agreements will provide veritable platforms for deepening existing air transport services, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two countries,” the statement added.

– Feb. 17, 2020 @ 14:35 GMT |

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