A senior African Union official says the group looks forward to deepening relations with Washington following Barack Obama’s re-election as U.S. president.
Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission says the AU seeks a strong partnership with Washington to combat terrorism and find solutions to ending hunger.
“We celebrated his victory for two reasons. First, we saw it as an opportunity for us to strengthen the relationship that we have started with the United States,” said Mwencha.
“The U.S. is a significant partner for Africa in many areas [including] AGOA [the African Growth and Opportunity Act]," he said. "We hope that this will give us an opportunity to really broaden that framework to make it not just a unilateral instrument but a platform under which we can strengthen socio-economic ties between the United States and Africa.”
He said Washington and African nations shares a global challenge, including climate change, terrorism and hunger.
“Particularly on the issue of hunger, President Obama has been a champion for the program for food security globally, but also in Africa and we have seen quite some momentum on that program,” said Mwencha. “And we believe there is an opportunity for us to continue to work together.”
In her congratulatory message to President Obama, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said she planned “to strengthen cooperation between the AU member states and the people and government of the United States of America, in the interest of a peaceful and just world.
"The AU Commission is committed to continued friendly relations and mutual support during the upcoming four years; a view we share with millions of African citizens who delight in your re-election,” she added.
But, critics say Obama has not lived up to expectations in Africa of a stronger partnership with continent’s nations during his first office term.
Mwencha said Obama’s re-election victory provides an opportunity for improvement.
“We in the African Union Commission have already had very high contact levels of interactions that take place. We know that they are deeply concerned there is not much that is going in the way of enhancing that relationship,” said Mwencha. “And we hope that this opportunity is there for us now to put this framework in a [more] significant position than what is was in the recent past.”
The African Union faces security challenges in Mali where Islamist militants control the north. The West Africa regional bloc has stepped up preparations for the possible deployment of 3,300 troops there.
“We have seen some element of al-Qaeda there [in Mali],” said Mwencha. “For us, we believe that global issues can only be addressed by the international community working together.”
Clottey interview with Erastus Mwencha, a prominent AU official