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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs