Controversy, Possible Somalia Breakthrough Mark AU Summit

The 13th African Union summit opens Wednesday in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte, birthplace of the continent's longest serving leader, host Moammar Gadhafi. The pre-summit buzz is all about who is attending, as well as how many, and which African leaders may stay away.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan will be there in defiance of an ICC war crimes indictment, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Brazil's President Lula da Silva are also on the guest list. Talk on the street is that North Korea is  sending an observer delegation. But perhaps the biggest news is that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may make an appearance.

The 81-year-old Egyptian leader has not been to a gathering of African leaders since he escaped an assassination attempt during a summit of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa in 1995.

VOA was unable to obtain a visa to attend, but diplomats and journalists who did say the summit site is taking on a festival atmosphere. The pre-summit chatter is dominated by the big name guest list.

The last summit in February drew only 21 heads of state to see Moammar Gadhafi sworn in. There was concern the turnout this time might be no better. But with Mr. Gadhafi talking about ramming through some of his controversial proposals for a United States of Africa, many would-be stay-at-homes may show up after all.

Summit sideline events have already produced an apparent breakthrough, this one on Somalia. Reporters in Sirte say IGAD, the regional grouping of East African countries will ask the summit to change the weak AU peacekeeping mission AMISOM to a robust fighting force.

IGAD, which comprises six East African countries is said to be looking at reversing an earlier ruling that prohibited Somalia's neighbors from sending troops to AMISOM. Two IGAD powers, Ethiopia and Kenya border Somalia, and are being urged in many quarters to play a more significant role in helping their neighbor.

Kenneth Mpysi of the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa says the summit come none too soon for Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation whose future hangs by a thread.

"I think IGAD will push the African Union to continue and strengthen its role in terms of political will from the wider body, now we might be seeing increased political will as the situation aggravates. So Somalia might be one of the areas where we might see something significant coming out of it, particularly because there is this push from IGAD," he said.

Other security issues slated to receive summit attention include the recent political troubles in Niger, and unconstitutional changes of government or attempted coups in Madagascar, Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Also on the agenda will be an attempt by some member states to express the continent's unified opposition to the war crimes indictment against Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The pending ICC (International Criminal Court) indictments were a hot topic at the last meeting in February. But an attempt to forge a consensus failed at a pre-summit session in Addis Ababa last month, when only a handful of countries supported a Libyan and Sudanese backed initiative to withdraw in unison from the ICC's founding agreement.

The three-day Sirte summit begins with an public session Wednesday, and closes with another open meeting Friday.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs