Written by Osetemega Iribiri
In a two-day African Union summit, African leaders discussed many challenges facing the continent and jumpstarted a faltering free trade pact. Some of the challenges confronting the continent are a record drought in the Horn and deadly violence in the Sahel region and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 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, accused of backing the rebels. Other concerns include the backsliding of democracy in Junta-ruled Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. Although they have suspended memberships, they sent diplomats to Addis Ababa to lobby for readmission. The increase in juntas is particularly of concern as it appears that sanctions do not seem to be enough deterrents.
The summit also reviewed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) launched in 2020. It aims to be the world’s biggest trade deal in terms of population. Currently, intra-Africa trade is at 15%; with the signing and finalization of all legal details, this trade should boost intra-Africa trade by 60% by 2034 by eliminating almost all tariffs. So far, it has the support of 54 countries, with Eritrea the only holdout.
Also this summit witnessed the removal of a senior Israeli diplomat, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, from the Union’s summit as a dispute over Israel’s accreditation to the bloc escalated. A video posted on social media showed security personnel walking the Ambassador out of the auditorium during the opening ceremony of the summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday. AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said, “The status is suspended until such time as this committee can deliberate … and so we did not invite Israeli officials to our summit,” However, a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry said the Ambassador was “an accredited observer with an entry tag”, and accused the AU of being taken hostage by a “small number of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa, which are driven by hatred and controlled by Iran”. Also, an AU official noted that Ambassador Bar-li was “asked to leave” because she was not the invited official. The only invitation issued, which was not transferable, was given to Israel’s AU ambassador, Aleli Admasu.
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