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African Leaders Gather for Busy AU Summit Agenda

Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, speaks during a meeting of African economic blocs at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, January 25, 2012.

African heads of state and government have begun arriving ahead of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled to begin in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Sunday.

Observers say a record number of African leaders are expected to attend this year’s summit.

“Everything is in high gear on preparations for the opening of the summit Sunday,” said AU adviser Keizire Boaz.

Boaz says the leaders are expected to elect the new head of the African Union commission, as well as formulate a framework to promote trade and commerce among African countries.

“There are two key things that are going to happen at this summit. One is the election of office bearers, including the African Union chair, and also the chairperson of the commission,” continued Boaz. “There are lots of expectations on what kind of decisions are going to be made to enhance Africa trade, especially to allow the movement of goods and services within Africa at a relatively cheaper cost.”

The leaders are also scheduled to elect the deputy chairperson of the AU commission, as well as ten members of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), and one judge of the AU Ad-hoc administrative tribunal. South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will challenge incumbent chairperson Jean Ping.

Boaz said supporters of Dlamini-Zuma and Ping have been campaigning for their candidates ahead of the summit.

“A number of big actors have played a big role in mobilizing both the heads of state, but also the ministers of foreign affairs to elect the office bearers.”

Boaz says expectations are high about the decisions the heads of state and government will be making about resolving challenges the continent faces.

“They are going to be debating and clarifying the needed action and decision to allow faster and cheaper movements of goods and services. It will take a lot of resources to enhance both road and railway infrastructure…and to talk about the rules and regulations to allow this to happen,” said Boaz.

He said the African leaders should demonstrate political will to promote the trade and commerce among their countries.

“The heads of state need to show commitment and, secondly, to be responsible to making the decisions [and] to take those decisions into action,” said Boaz. “Moving from decision to action is what is going to determine how effective this approach is going to be.”

The AU leaders are expected to consider the recommendations of the commission’s report on the implementation of previous decisions of the Executive Council and the Assembly and the report of the Peace and Security Council on its activities and the state of peace and security in Africa, including the activities of the Panel of the Wise.

They will also discuss the report of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee.