ADDIS ABABA — The crises in South Sudan and the Central African Republic are expected to be high on the agenda at the African Union summit that begins Thursday in Addis Ababa. The United States is also seeking ways to punish the perpetrators of violence in the CAR.
The official theme of this year’s summit is Agriculture and Food Security, but more attention is unavoidably being paid to the conflicts that have gripped the continent.
In South Sudan, the strength of a cease-fire deal signed last week has already been put in doubt by reports of continued fighting between government forces and rebel factions.
The Central African Republic, meantime, is hoping a new transitional administration can lead the way to peace as clashes between Muslim and Christian militia have displaced nearly a quarter of the population.
The AU Peace and Security Council meets Wednesday evening to hear reports on the situation in both countries as well as a separate report on Egypt.
The question is how much the AU can really do to resolve these conflicts.
On the situation in South Sudan, Paul Simon Handy, conflict analyst at the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, does not expect much concrete action.
“This summit doesn’t need to take any important decisions, it will just note, take into account, the fact that the warring parties agreed to that cease-fire and they’ll ask for a bit of time for the cease-fire to translate into complete results on the ground,” he said.
Meantime, Uganda’s involvement in the conflict may be another topic of discussion.
Kampala has admitted to backing government forces in South Sudan in their battles against rebel fighters, an intervention rebel leaders have complained about during mediation talks.
Handy says questions about Uganda’s engagement, which apparently took place without clearance from the AU or the United Nations, could be raised.
“I think the Ugandan involvement poses some serious questions about legitimacy and also about the legality,” he said.
Turning to the Central African Republic on Saturday, the AU will host a donors' conference to raise funds for humanitarian aid and peacekeeping operations in the country.
On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council approved additional European Union forces to work alongside French and African peacekeepers.
The United States is also pushing for targeted sanctions against the perpetrators of the violence.
“The sanctions are still a work in progress but I want to be clear here in all of our meetings that this is something that we take very, very seriously,” said Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is part of the U.S. delegation at the AU summit.
Thomas-Greenfield adds that the U.S. has contacted the CAR’s neighbors, warning them not to allow their borders to be used to transfer weapons and fighters.