News / Africa

AU Leaders Face Difficult Issues at Summit

African Union Foreign Ministers are meeting in Kampala to settle positions on a host of difficult issues facing the continent's heads of state when they gather Sunday for an African Union summit. Security concerns have failed to dampen summit spirits as Africa celebrates one of its proudest moments.

Inside the halls of the Speke Munyonyo resort, Africa's decision makers are discussing weighty issues: how to respond to the threat of terrorism from al-Qaida-linked groups in Somalia; how to prepare for the possible split of Sudan after next January's referendum; and how to respond to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's insistence on speedy political and economic integration of the continent.

The endless security checks and armed guards lining the roads are a constant reminder of the suicide bombs that struck the city less than a fortnight ago.

But on the lawns outside, the air is festive. Tony Ofungi of Uganda's Tourism Board says visitors are coming with a positive attitude.

"There's more security awareness as opposed to before when everybody took it for granted, but there's a better sense of awareness, and the visitors are in solidarity with Uganda. It's not just an individual problems of the country, but this is a global phenomenon," he said.

Among the featured guests at Thursday's opening ministerial session was German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwell. He expressed the global admiration for Africa's accomplishment at the World Cup, hosted by South Africa, mixed with its horror at the bombings in Uganda.

"People all over the world experienced the modern Africa, with perfect organization and an overwhelming hospitality during the World Cup. Africa presented the world with the gift of an unforgettable festival. More heinous [is] that, right at the end of the festival, peacefully celebrating fans became the victims of terrorist attacks in Kampala. These attacks triggered a wave of shock anger and sadness all over the world,"  Westerwell said.

Kampala is holding its breath with more than 25 heads of state expected to arrive for the three-day summit beginning Sunday.   

Mexican President Felipe Calderon will be the summit guest of honor. The United States will be represented by a delegation led by Attorney General Eric Holder, who will deliver a message on behalf of President Barack Obama.

Related story by Ndimyake Mwakalyelye ("In Focus")

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