News / Africa

AU Summit Attracts Democrats and Dictators

Multimedia

Audio

An African Union summit in Uganda's capital city Kampala is drawing to a close with a number of difficult issues still dividing participants.  These twice-yearly gatherings show Africa at its best and worst, bringing together a diverse collection of democrats and dictators.

Diplomats often describe the African Union as a "work in progress" - great accomplishment in the midst of poverty, conflict and a distressing record in fostering peace and good governance.

Critics, such as Ugandan lawyer and political commentator Gawaya Tegulle describe the continent's leadership as an "African tragedy."

"If you look at Sudan, Libya, you look at Zimbabwe, it goes without mentioning, Zimbabwe is an obvious case," said Tegulle.  "If you look at a series of West African states where you see very weak government, you look at Niger, at the Central African Republic, you look at Chad, these are really depressing stories.  So we are looking at a few democrats gathered in Kampala, and a lot of dictators."

Some considered the worst of the continent's leaders are staying away from this summit.  Sudan's Omar al-Bashir is among those absent.  Uganda, one of 30 African state parties to  the International Criminal Court, would have been obliged to arrest the Sudanese leader, who is under ICC indictment for war crimes and genocide.

But even among ICC member states, the Bashir indictment generates anger in an organization known for protecting its own.  Malawi's President Bingu Wa Mutharika, who holds the rotating AU chairmanship, received applause when he criticized the ICC indictment.

"There is a general concern in Africa that the issuance of a warrant of arrest for His Excellency al-Bashir, a duly elected president of the Sudan, is a violation of the principles of sovereignty guaranteed under the United Nations and under the African Union charter," said Mutharika.  "To subject a sovereign head of state to a warrant of arrest is undermining African solidarity and African peace and security that we fought for for so many years."

This summit is devoted to examining why so many African women die during childbirth.  Heads of state participating in a panel discussion on the subject said the biggest challenge is a lack of money.  But one panelist, legendary singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka spoke for many Africans when she shot back, "That has not stopped African deposits in Swiss bank accounts."

Activists working on the summit's margins call it 'kleptocracy', the tendency of government officials to divert development funds to their own uses.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a message from President Barack Obama, announced a new initiative aimed at prosecuting officials who misuse U.S. development aid.

"I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended and proper use: for the people of our nations," said Holder.

But for all the failings of its leaders and its institutions, there is no question that Africa is moving forward.  The triumph of the World Cup in South Africa is but one example.  Speaking at the launch of a new infrastructure initiative, South African President Jacob Zuma predicted Africa's time has come.

"Africa is a region in the world that has started on economic growth and it has potential that no other continent has," said Zuma.  "Other continents that have been big for centuries are shrinking in the economic sense.  Africa is going to be number one."

This Kampala summit, like every AU gathering, has been dominated by security issues.  Somalia tops the list this time.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra acknowledges the dominance of conflict is an accurate reflection of the state of Africa.  But he argues a longer look shows great progress in the past decade, in promoting integration, development and democracy.  And, one might add, good governance.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid