Kenyan leader in Kampala for AU talks

July 25, 2010 12:00 am

, KAMPALA, Jul 25 – President Kibaki is in Uganda for a two-day visit where he will attend the 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.

The Summit is expected to address critical issues for the development and integration of the African Continent.

Other key issues which the continental leaders are expected to deliberate upon include the rapid socio-economic transformation of African Societies through the development of energy and infrastructural networks as well as the consolidation and sustainability of peace and security.

The African Union declared 2010 the African year of Peace and Security and therefore the continental body is also expected to operationalise the African Standby Force thus making the progress of peace and security architecture.

More than 30 heads of state from the AU\’s 53 members have gathered amid unprecedented security in the Ugandan capital, two weeks after suicide attacks in the city claimed by Somalia\’s Shabab group killed 76 people.

The bombings that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final were meant to bully Uganda into pulling out of the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the last thing standing between the Shabab and total power.

Uganda reacted by saying it could send 2,000 more troops and urged more decisive international support, while the embattled Somali government argued the attacks were evidence Somalia required the world\’s attention.

"Guinea is ready to immediately dispatch a battalion," AU chief Jean Ping said at a press conference in Kampala on Friday. "We are going to quickly top the 8,000 mark… I think the current trend could take us over 10,000."

Diplomats in Kampala say that Angola, Mozambique and South Africa may also pledge troops, whose current deployment consists of just over 6,000 Ugandans and Burundians.

The Shabab leadership has proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and the group\’s first bomb attacks outside Somalia renewed fears that the Horn of Africa country could become a new safe haven for Al Qaeda.

Ping also reiterated at the press conference that the African Union was seeking a tougher mandate for AMISOM under the United Nations Charter\’s chapter seven, allowing it to take more aggressive action.

"If this request is answered positively, our troops will attack," he said.

Troops from the United States and the United Nations have previously not been able to crush the insurgency in Somalia, which has been without an effective government for two decades.

Eritrea, which is under international sanctions and has been accused of supporting the Shabab, argues that the Islamist insurgency needs to be engaged at the negotiating table than on the battlefield.

"We believe that military involvement cannot bring a peaceful solution," Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh told AFP on Friday on the sidelines of the pre-summit ministerial gathering.

The Shabab – as well as Mogadishu residents and rights groups – have criticised AMISOM for causing civilian deaths by shelling targets in densely-populated areas.

Analysts have warned a beefed up AMISOM mandate could make things worse.

"We are quite worried about the consequences of such an operation, because if they are engaged in quite an indiscriminate manner, they run the risk of playing in the hands of the Shabab," said the International Crisis Group\’s Ernst Jan Hogendoorn.

The continent\’s leaders are also expected to discuss the future of Sudan, where the oil-rich south is due to hold a referendum on independence in January.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, whose movements have been under close scrutiny since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant against him over the war in Darfur, is not expected to attend.

In a year that saw a raft of elections, Africa\’s top officials and diplomats are also expected to reflect on the progress of democracy and accountability in member states.

Elections in Burundi are being boycotted after opposition claims of fraud, polls in Ethiopia were marred by similar accusations and Rwanda\’s ongoing campaign has been tarnished by murders and arrests.

The only recent elections that met international standards were those in Somaliland, which is not a state.

The northern Somali breakaway territory has been asking for international recognition for years and hopes that its smooth and democratic transfer of power will boost its case with the African Union.


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