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AU holds reform conference, anxiety mounts in Gabon and Madagascar

Sunday November 18 2018

AU Extraordinary Session

African Union leaders attend the opening ceremony of the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 17, 2018. The conference was expected to deliberate on the progress made with regard to reforms in the union. PHOTO | MICHAEL TEWELDE | AFP) 

CIUGU MWAGIRU
By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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African Union leaders were gathered in Addis Ababa for an extraordinary summit that began Saturrday and ends today.

The conference was expected to deliberate on the progress made with regard to reforms in the union that would make it more independent and self-sufficient.

The summit is being held less than two months after the AU marked its 50th anniversary, and was preceded by the 20th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council early in the week.

There was a call by AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat for strengthened commitment in pursuing reforms.

While opening the Executive Committee meeting, Mahamat stressed the need to enhance the efficiency of the union so that it can deal with development initiatives and challenges Africa faces.

FREE TRADE AREA

These include the ratification of the Continental Free Trade Area and the honouring of financial obligations by member states, including the adoption of a related 0.2 per cent levy through national legislative agencies.

The AU summit was being held amid anxiety in Gabon and Madagascar.

Gabonese President Ali Bongo, 59, is being treated in Saudi Arabia after suffering what his wife Sylvia said was a stroke soon after attending a summit of Francophone countries in Switzerland.

Bongo was taken to Riyadh on October 24 after he landed in Saudi Arabia to take part in an economic forum.

Government officials have been accused of evasiveness, duplicity and lying about the condition of the ailing leader.

Early in the week, the opposition National Union party said government claims that Bongo's condition had greatly improved were misleading.

The party said it would be grave and harmful to the country if the government withheld vital information.

MADAGASCAR

The exchanges in Gabon took place as it emerged that a December 19 presidential poll runoff in Madagascar is likely, following last week’s vote in the perennially volatile Indian Ocean island nation.

With 80 per cent of the ballots from the November 7 poll counted, two former presidents — Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana — were ahead of the pack of 36 candidates who contested the election.

While the former had reportedly 39.63 per cent of the ballots cast, the latter garnered 35.42 per cent as outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was in third place with a measly eight per cent.

Under Madagascar law, a first round outright win is only possible if a candidate garners more than 50 per cent of the ballots.

CLOSE RACE

Watchers of the Madagascar political scene have pointed out that the second round race is likely to be close.

In the Horn of Africa, the geopolitical situation has been undergoing rapid transformation.

The latest phase came on Wednesday when the UN Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Eritrea.

Among the sanctions were an arms embargo, following reports that Eritrea was supplying weapons to Somalia’s al-Shabaab rebels and refusing to resolve a border row with Djibouti.

The sanctions were lifted following the thawing in relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The peace-building initiatives in the Horn were led by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in April.

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