Amr Moussa Appointed Representative at African Union Panel of the Wise


Cairo – The African Union Commission (AUC) appointed on Saturday former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa as the first Egyptian to become a member of the African Union Panel of the Wise.

He has been appointed as a successor to Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, said Moussa in a statement.

The Panel of the Wise includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gabon former Minister for Social Affairs Honorine Nzet Biteghe, in addition to the former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba and former Vice President of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe.

Moussa underlined the vital role the Panel played following the June 30, 2013 revolution in Egypt through the visits its members paid to to Cairo, Addis Ababa, and various African capitals. He stressed the importance of Egypt’s presence among African circles and its defense of the continent’s interests.

The Panel of the Wise deals with conflict prevention, management and resolution among African countries. It provides consultations to the Peace and Security Council on relevant issues. The Panel of the Wise serves a three-year term and is composed of five members representing the North, East, West, South and Center of Africa.

It was established in December 2007, and since then it had been concerned with issues of justice, national reconciliation, preserving the rights of women and children in armed conflicts, democracy and governance.

The first Panel of the Wise was comprised of late Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim, former President of Sao Tome Miguel Trovoada and others.

Libyan Committee Discusses Structure of Presidential Council

Ghassan Salame, UN Libya envoy, arrives for a meeting in Tunis

Tunis– The unified committee entrusted with amending the Skhirat Agreement met with representatives of Libya’s various political parties on Saturday, for the fifth consecutive day, in the presence of UN Envoy Ghassan Salameh.

While no concrete results were reached to amend the agreement signed in 2015, the committee discussed the structure and authorities of the presidential council and the cabinet, as well as the mechanism to choose the members of the council.

According to Libyan sources, which participated in the political dialogue sessions, the committee has avoided to suggest names to fill State institutions posts, in order to prevent disagreements that might hamper the progress of the talks in a positive atmosphere.

Since the launch of talks in the Tunisian capital last week, the unified committee, which is formed of 16 members representing Libyan Parliament and the High State Council, has failed to agree on the authorities of the presidential council and the mechanism to give confidence to the cabinet.

In this regard, many observers talked about the existence of several obstacles to the intra-Libyan dialogue, noting that reaching concrete solutions required “common concessions for a unified Libya”.

The Libyan political dialogue meetings in Tunis are aimed at putting an end to the transitional phase in the country by holding presidential and parliamentary elections next spring.

The proposed amendments to the Skhirat Agreement include five main points, the most important of which is Article 8, which specifies the powers of the supreme commander of the Libyan armed forces.

During the closed-door dialogue sessions, participants also discussed the African Union peace plan that was issued during the recent meeting in Brazzaville, and the Libyan parties considered that relying on an African Union peacekeeping force in the first stage to secure the basic pillars for restoring stability in Libya might be one of the solutions to overcome political instability at the end of the transitional period.

AU Pledges to Support Sudan in Lifting US Sanctions


Khartoum – Guinean President and Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Alpha Conde pledged to support Sudan in its efforts to achieve a complete lifting of US sanctions imposed on it.

He also announced that a meeting for the Libyan rival parties would be held in the Guinean capital to agree on a government of national unity.

Conde arrived on Sunday in Khartoum on a three-day visit to discuss the security situation in the continent.

The official news agency SUNA Sunday quoted Sudan’s foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour as saying “Conde’s visit to the country comes upon an official invitation from President Omar al-Bashir”.

During a news conference following a bilateral meeting with the Sudanese president, Conde said he would work to achieve the full lifting of US sanctions against Sudan, in order to facilitate the movement of Bashir within the African continent and the world.

“We came here to tell the world that we stand by this people and this country,” the AU chairperson stated.

On Libya, Conde blamed the international community for the security instability in the African country, stressing that foreign intervention in the Libyan crisis has further escalated the crisis there.

He noted in this regard that Guinea would host a meeting between the different Libyan factions to agree on a national unity government, with the hope to end the conflict.

Conde also called on Sudan to support the AU plans, which aim to reach a political solution to end the political stalemate in Libya.

The Sudanese president, for his part, said he discussed with his Guinean counterpart bilateral relations and the latest developments in Sudan, on the political, security and economic levels.

He added that discussions also touched on regional developments, highlighting the AU chairman’s efforts to support Sudan and the African continent.

3 Somali Soldiers Die while Defusing Shabaab-Planted Explosives


Three Somali soldiers were killed in the capital Mogadishu on Wednesday while attempting to defuse a car bomb, announced the police and militant al-Shabaab group.

The bomb detonated as the military experts were trying to dismantle a car laden with explosives that security forces seized in Wadajir district, police major Mohamed Hussein said.

“First two soldiers died and another was injured. The third soldier died of the blast wounds minutes later,” Hussein told Reuters.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident, but gave different details.

“Five mine experts including security officials and foreigners died in the Mogadishu blast,” its military affairs spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said.

Since losing large swathes of territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the government, al-Shabaab have frequently launched raids and deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government.

Al-Shabaab has vowed to step up attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced a new offensive against the group.

Targets in recent months have included hotels, military facilities and checkpoints and areas around the presidential palace.

Somalia’s military is under growing pressure to assume responsibility for the country’s security as a 22,000-strong multinational African Union force prepares to start withdrawing in 2018. The force, which has been supporting the fragile central government, plans to leave by the end of 2020.

Somalia’s president last week urged the international community to lift the arms embargo on his long-chaotic country, saying the military needs more than AK-47s to combat the extremists.

Alpha Condé: Foreign Interference behind Africa’s Problems


Conakry (Guinea) – Guinean President Alpha Condé, whose country currently assumes the rotating presidency of the African Union, said problems facing the Dark Continent were mainly due to “foreign interference.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Condé said he was fully convinced that Africa and the Arab world need one another, in particular in the field of economic cooperation.

Asked about the African Union’s role in helping Arab and African states overcome current threats and challenges, the Guinean president said: “We have agreed that the AU must seek to resolve all African problems, whether those problems were in Arab countries, in the Sahel or the sub-Sahara.”

He explained that Africans must resolve the crisis in Libya, just like the conflict in Nigeria.

“Our goal is that African themselves seek to resolve all problems facing the continent, and we believe that all of the African continent’s crises are caused by foreign interference,” the president stated.

Condé told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country decided to join the Saudi-led military alliance to fight terrorism based on its belief that terrorist organizations were threatening Islam and the whole world.

“Terrorism threatens us all and it contradicts Islamic teachings,” he said. “Protecting Islam is our duty.”

On the AU relations with the Gulf, the Guinean president said: “We all know that Africa needs the Arab world and the Arab world needs Africa.”

“Arab countries’ economies rely on oil but they have to plan for the post-oil era. We have primary material and fertile land, and Gulf States have financial assets,” he stated.

He noted in this regard that economic partnerships between Africa and the Gulf would create fruitful industries that serve both sides.

While acknowledging the need to put local conflicts behind and move forward towards a fresh strategy to develop the Dark Continent, Condé said the African Union’s founding fathers were aware of the necessity to surpass geographic borders, which were imposed by foreign powers.

He said that African leaders knew that foreign intervention and the “blue helmets” would not be able to resolve the continent’s problems.

“More than 20,000 UN troops are present since decades in different African regions, and nothing has changed so far. On the contrary, there are attacks and explosions everyday – this happens in Darfur, South Sudan, and many other areas,” the president noted.

“We are convinced, more than ever, that only Africans can resolve these problems and conflicts,” he added.

On the consolidation of democracy and reconciliation, the Guinean president affirmed at no country could develop in the absence of national unity. He explained that a country’s national unity should be supported by a “genuine African integration”.

“Except for Nigeria, African markets are small and limited, however, economic prosperity requires larger markets.
That is why we are convinced of the need to establish a regional integration in the first phase, and then we will work to achieve integration on the continental level,” Condé said.

“Such integration will allow us to overcome Africa’s biggest challenge that is poverty,” he added.

On whether the decision to allow Morocco back to the AU has created a rift within the organization, Condé stressed that the decision was taken unanimously and that no country objected the return of the North African state.

He added that he hoped the controversial issue of Western Sahara would be soon resolved.

“As president of Guinea and current president of the African Union, I will do my best to defend African unity and resolve the continent’s problems regardless of their nature, in order to achieve development and prosperity for the African people,” Condé said.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI: It’s So Good to Be Back Home

Moroccan King Mohammed VI

Addis Ababa – “Africa is my continent, and my home,” Moroccan King Mohammed VI said in his speech on Tuesday at the 28th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

“It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long! It is a good day when you can show your affection for your beloved home,” he stated.

The AU on Monday admitted Morocco as its 55th member, through an overwhelming consensus rather than the usual voting process.

The North African country has formally submitted its bid to rejoin the AU last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s aim to put his country “at the center” of the continent’s development.

Morocco withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), 32 years ago in protest at the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.

“I am home at last and happily reunited with you. I have missed you all,” the king said.

“The massive, outspoken support Morocco has received is proof of the solid bonds that unite us,” he added.

He went on to say that Morocco’s withdrawal from the OAU was “necessary”.

“It has enabled Morocco’s action to be refocused in Africa to show how indispensable Africa is to Morocco and how indispensable Morocco is to Africa,” he stated.

King Mohammed VI also stressed the existing strong bilateral relations between his country and other African countries.

“At a time when the Kingdom is among the most developed African nations and when a majority of Member States looks forward to our return, we have decided to join our family again; a family we did not really leave! In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us,” he said.

“It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa’s wealth. We must work to enable our land, after decades of looting, to enter an era of prosperity,” he added.

Morocco Rejoins the African Union

Leaders gathered for a group photo at the 28th ordinary session of the assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday. PHOTO: MULUGETA AYENE/ASSOCIATED PRES

Addis Ababa – The African Union (AU) on Monday admitted Morocco as its 55th member, through an overwhelming consensus rather than the usual voting process.

African leaders, who convened in Addis Ababa for the 28th AU ordinary session, decided to debate the question of Morocco’s membership and “reached a consensus,” according to several ministers who participated in the discussion.

The North African country has formally submitted its bid to rejoin the AU last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s aim to put his country “at the center” of the continent’s development.

Morocco withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, 32 years ago in protest at the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.

Meanwhile, AU members elected Chad’s Moussa Mahamat as the new AU Commission chairman. The former Chadian prime minister will succeed South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who headed the union’s executive and administrative arm since 2012.

The president of Guinea Alpha Conde was elected Chairman of the African Union (AU), replacing the outgoing president of Idris Debbi of Chad to lead the continent for 2017. He won after securing the vote of the West African countries.

“I will work to improve the low representation of Africa in U.N. organizations. And I hope the representation will be improved and help us echo African voices,” he said in a statement after his election.

“Africans can speak in a single voice; Africa is one and indivisible,” he said stressing the need of further boosting the cooperation among member states.

African Union Decides on Morocco’s Reentry


Addis Ababa – African Union leaders gathering in Ethiopia to attend the 28th AU Summit will have their say Monday on Morocco’s reentry to the continental bloc.

Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI met on Sunday with 44 African heads of state, as well as with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a reception hosted by the king at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.

The Moroccan sources added that outgoing African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was present at the reception, in addition to more than 40 heads of African states.

The North African country has formally submitted its bid to rejoin the AU last year, when King Mohammed VI set out his government’s aim to put his country “at the center” of the continent’s development.

Morocco withdrew from the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, 32 years ago in protest at recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member state.

Ahead of the reception, the Moroccan king held a series of bilateral talks with African leaders, to discuss his country’s reentry to the Union, as well as means to promote mutual relations.

In a last-minute development, the Summit agenda has been amended, as it has decided to discuss Morocco’s reentry to the Union on Monday afternoon, when Zuma will hand over the Summit presidency to the President of the Republic of Guinea Alpha Condé.

Sources said that the new president would abide by the AU by-laws, by holding a direct vote on Morocco’s return to the Union.

In an official statement, the AUC said that Zuma received on Thursday a delegation from the Kingdom of Morocco, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salaheddine Mezouar.

The statement added that discussions focused on the status of Morocco’s request to “accede to the Constitutive Act and join the African Union”.

“The Chairperson informed the Minister that the request has been put on the agenda of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, upon receiving the requisite minimum from AU Member States,” it noted, adding that the decision would be officially communicated to Morocco, after the Summit meeting scheduled for 30-31 January 2017.

King of Morocco Travels to Addis Ababa to Attend AU Summit

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI arrived in Ethiopia on Saturday morning to participate in the African Union Summit. Morocco is seeking to re-join the continental union after an absence of 32 years.

According to a statement issued by the Moroccan Ministry of Royal Palaces, King Mohammed VI’s visit to Addis Ababa “falls within the framework of the efforts made by King Mohammed VI for the Kingdom of Morocco to re-join the African Union”.

The African Union’s 28th summit is scheduled to take place on the 30th and 31st of January. An official delegation is accompanying the king on this visit and includes the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco Salaheddine Mezouar. Morocco withdrew from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in September 1984 in protest at the union’s acceptance of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s membership. However, Morocco has a special status within the AU, the organisation’s successor which was established in July 2001, and benefits from the services available to all AU states from the institutions of the AU. The union currently has 54 member states.

The return of Morocco to the African Union is one of the most important topics on the 28th AU summit’s agenda. The matter necessitates a vote by the African heads of state. Morocco expressed its desire to re-join the AU after winning the support of 40 out of 54 countries, but influential countries in Africa like Algeria and South Africa could put obstacles in its way.

‘Western Sahara’ Crisis Looms over Africa-Arab Summit Preparatory Meetings


Malabo – Several countries announced they would withdraw from the 4th Africa-Arab Summit to be held on Wednesday in the Republican of Equatorial Guinea, due to the insistence of African Union to include delegation of the Western Sahara in the annual meeting.

During a ministerial meeting on Tuesday in preparation for the Summit, Morocco’s Minister for Moroccans Living Abroad and Migration Affairs Anis Birou opposed the presence of the flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic that was unilaterally declared in 1976 by the Polisario.

Morocco was followed by Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Qattan said the move was in solidarity with Morocco.

Other countries also withdrew from the meeting, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan.

The Moroccan minister attributed Morocco’s decision to withdraw from the summit to the insistence of some delegations to ensure the participation of the Polisario.

“Morocco has made great efforts with African countries to resolve this problem, but some countries have prevented it”, Birou said.

During the ministerial meeting, Qattan said that Saudi Arabia supports Morocco in its decision to withdraw from the summit, adding: “Everything that affects Morocco’s sovereignty is rejected by Saudi Arabia.”

Qattan called for suspending the ministerial session and holding a meeting to resolve the crisis. He stressed Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz keenness on the success of the Africa-Arab Summit.

Sources said that African Union member states have agreed to cancel discussions over crisis of the Western Sahara, until leaders decide to tackle it at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Some countries, mainly from the African Union, recognized Polisario’s Sahrawi Republic (SADR) but none of the Western powers recognized it.