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African Union Summit Tackles Regional Conflicts

  • Nico Colombant

African heads of state are meeting in Gabon to discuss conflicts in Sudan's western Darfur region, divided Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But, expectations that the summit will produce any results are low.

The African Union is organizing the two-day meeting in Libreville as the first of its 15-member peace and security council at the head of state level. Heads of state not on the council are also attending.

Some of the leaders present include Nigerian Olusegun Obasanjo, Great Lakes rivals, D.R.C's Joseph Kabila and Rwanda's Paul Kagame, as well as South African Thabo Mbeki, who has become the lead mediator for the Ivory Coast crisis.

Ivory Coast leaders and northern-based rebels are now under threat of individual United Nations sanctions for blocking progress in their peace process.

Analyst Gus Selassie of the London-based World Markets Research Center is skeptical the meeting will produce any breakthroughs. He says a similar meeting was held just before the latest fighting broke out in the eastern D.R.C. in late November.

"Just a few days before the latest Rwandan invasion or alleged invasion there was a regional Great Lakes conference but in all honesty nothing came out of it so to me yet another conference or summit without the political willpower and the backing by regional states I don't see what it's going to bring in," he said.

A regional human rights activist Alioune Tine says African leaders are trying to find African solutions, but he says they have been unable to stop fighting until getting outside help.

"I think it is a very good idea. But the problem is the means," he said. "Africa has no means to contain, to control the security of some countries. They need the help of the international community like the United Nations, U.S., the European Union, look at DRC or Liberia or Ivory Coast, the problem of means is the problem of Africa."

One conflict area for which the African Union has taken the lead role is Sudan's western Darfur region. But in recent months, the African body's mediation efforts have coincided with an escalation in fighting.