Heads of the African Union (AU) members and guests pose for a group photo during the 26th AU summit in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Jan. 30, 2016. The 26th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) heads of states and governments kicks off on Saturday at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
ADDIS ABABA — The 26th AU Heads of State Summit opened on Saturday in Addis Ababa, with a rallying call for unity, tolerance, respect for human rights and improved governance in order to tackle the continent’s myriad challenges effectively.
Dozens of African leaders and a host of foreign dignitaries including the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, attended the opening ceremony of the summit.
The outgoing AU Chairperson, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his opening remarks stressed that unity is key to help overcome social, political and economic challenges blighting the African continent.
“We must speak with one voice as we chart a new chapter on our journey to become self-reliant and free from emerging threats like terrorism, dangerous epidemics and conflicts,” Mugabe remarked.
The two-day summit will discuss a range of topics including human rights, women empowerment, financing of the continental body, terrorism, conflicts and reforms in the UN security council.
Likewise, African leaders and senior policymakers will also discuss progress achieved in the implementation of development projects identified in the Agenda 2063.
Mugabe said despite the threat of terrorism and a slump in the commodities market, Africa’s socio-economic transformation remained on course thanks to domestic reforms and an improved political climate.
“Several AU member states in 2015 conducted fair, transparent and peaceful elections while the outlook for this year is bright. Africa has come of age despite recurrent threats to our common future,” Mugabe told leaders.
African countries are united in their quest to eradicate terrorism that currently poses a mortal threat to the continent’s stability and development.
Mugabe regretted that violent extremism has reached crisis levels in the horn of Africa, the Sahel and northern African region hence the need for concerted efforts to stamp it out.
“Terrorism is a major scourge in Africa that negatively impact on our quest for peace, security of our people, development and integration,” he noted, adding that creation of an African Standby force with deployable capability will embolden the war against terrorism.
African governments have prioritized the war against poverty, unemployment, discrimination and environmental degradation in line with the Agenda 2063 aspirations.
“We have endorsed an African resource mobilization strategy to help accelerate economic growth and tackle youth unemployment. There is a consensus on the need to tackle challenges like migration and climate change as a united bloc,” said Mugabe, adding that strategic cooperation with emerging economies like China and India will advance economic growth, peace and security in Africa.
Sustainable development in Africa hinges on institutional reforms, empowerment of women and girls, respect for the rule of law and inclusion.
Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to promote tolerance, human rights and inclusive development in order to sustain peace and long-term growth.
“We must resolutely invest in good governance, women empowerment and human rights as a prerequisite to achieve peace, security and development,” said the UN chief.
He stressed the unity of African states was crucial to help address the menace of terrorism, poverty, disease and forced migration.
“Africa should provide a shining example on potential of unity and tolerance to help tackle challenges facing humanity. The unity you demonstrated during the Ebola crisis was inspiring,” he remarked.
The AU member states will this year pay special attention to human rights, women empowerment, skills development and industrialization in line with the Agenda 2063 goals.
According to AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, African countries will dedicate greater efforts to the advancement of human rights alongside speedy implementation of projects identified in the Agenda 2063 so as to hasten their socio-economic transformation.
“We must continue to place our people and their basic human rights at the center of Agenda 2063. This include our people’s rights to education, nutrition, health, safe water, sanitation and energy,”she said.
FOLLOW NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS ON FACEBOOK @ New Africa Business News.com