Africa is reeling from a record drought in the Horn and deadly violence in the Sahel region and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the African Union (AU) meeting aiming to address these issues and jumpstart a faltering free trade pact.
Most of the sessions at the two-day summit will be held behind closed doors at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital. But eyes will be on the bloc to see if it can achieve ceasefires in the Sahel and the eastern DRC where the M23 militia has seized swathes of territory and sparked a diplomatic row between Kinshasa and Rwanda’s government, which is accused of backing the rebels.
At a mini-summit on Friday, leaders of the seven-nation East African Community pushed for all armed groups to withdraw from occupied areas in the eastern DRC by the end of next month. Guterres met with several African leaders on Friday, including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, to discuss in particular the crisis in the Congo. Junta-ruled Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, which have been suspended from the AU, cannot participate in this weekend’s summit. But diplomats of the three nations are in Addis Ababa to work for readmission.
Created in 2002 following the disbanding of the Organisation of African Unity, the AU comprises all 55 African countries, with a population of 1.4 billion people. While the bloc has been credited with taking a stand against coups, it has long been criticised as ineffectual.