Conflict with COVID, Five Priorities for African Union Summit

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    The Pan-African body summit virtually because of coronovirus precautions to hold annual heads of its states.

    African Union (AU) leaders will host a two-day summit starting on Saturday with a wide range of issues, including displacement due to coronovirus infections, border disputes and fighting.

    At this year’s virtual summit, Democratic Republic of Congo president Felix Tsekikedi will take over the chair of the rotating AU president from his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa. The Pan-African Body Assembly will also elect high-level officials to lead the AU commission for the next four years.

    Beyond the summit, whose official theme is Art, Culture and Heritage: Lever for the Africa Building We Want, takes a look at some of the most prominent priorities facing the Al Jazeera continent.

    COVID-19 Epidemic

    According to the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), home to approximately 1.3 billion people in Africa, it has confirmed more than 3.6 million COVID-19 infections and some 89,000 related deaths.

    Southern Africa is its most affected region, with South Africa being particularly hit – around 1.5 million infections and 45,600 fatalities.

    The continent has survived the worst epidemic compared to reported infections and deaths in the US, Europe and Asia – but health experts are warning that “vaccine hoarding” by wealthy countries is putting African countries at risk.

    While countries in other parts of the world have already started large-scale vaccination programs, those in Africa have rarely started issuing jobs.

    “We are not the first, first I, the only way to end the epidemic,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director, Africa in January.

    “Vaccination of vaccines will only work for a long time and will delay the recovery of Africa. It is profoundly unjust that the weakest Africans are forced to wait for vaccines, while the low-risk groups in wealthy countries are made safe.

    The WHO-led global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX says it aims to immunize at least 20 percent of the continent’s population.

    Alex Vine, director of the Africa program at Chatham House, told Al Jazeera, “With the second wave of COVID spreading across the continent, the best response is to collectively use the vaccine and launch a vaccination campaign.”

    “The major problem is funding. According to the WHO, only 25 percent of African countries have adequate plans to finance vaccination programs, ”Vine said.

    On Thursday, Africa CDC Director John Nekengsong said 16 countries had shown interest in achieving a total of 114 million doses under the AU’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which began in mid-January.

    At a virtual news conference, he said, “Our hope is that they should get their vaccines in the next two to three weeks.”

    CAR conflict

    Long struggling with stability, the Central African Republic was hit by a new wave of violence before and after chaotic elections in December that forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes, most registered Prevented voters from casting their ballots. A deal of fragile peace.

    A rebel coalition of armed groups is trying to reverse the elections on December 27, in which President Foustein-Truchera Todera was re-elected amid allegations of fraud.

    The rebels moved on to the capital, Bungi, last month, but were repulsed by government forces and UN peacekeepers, as well as Rwandan and Russian troops. However, the rebel coalition is still blocking the capital.

    Unlike some other conflicts on the continent, the AU has so far not sent troops, a mineral-rich country, one of the world’s poorest countries.

    “AU is divided on this issue. Geopolitical influence has so far prevented the deployment of troops, ”analyst Tahirou Amadou told Al Jazeera.

    “Francophone countries – Chad and Congo-Brezzaville – are on the insurgents side and are accused of pushing the interest of France; Congo-Kinshasa has close ties with Russia; supporting Rwanda and Angola government;” he added .

    “There is a need to build consensus before the troops are deployed.”

    Tiger crisis

    Following tensions, Ethiopia’s central government launched a military offensive on 4 November to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – the ruling party of Tigray’s northern state of Eritrea and Sudan from power. TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s governing coalition for almost 30 years, before Prime Minister Abi Ahmed took office in 2018.

    Abi’s government in Addis Ababa made an objectionable announcement on 28 November when it seized the regional capital Mekele, but fighting continues in other parts of Tigray and most TPLF leaders remain on a large scale.

    The fighting in Tigre is believed to have killed thousands and displaced hundreds, including 60,000 in Sudan. It has also given rise to a humanitarian crisis, with millions in need of assistance.

    As aid groups continue to push for access to the region amid a growing starvation crisis, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the situation in Tigray was “extremely serious” on Monday.

    The think-tank of the International Crisis Group warned this week that a humanitarian catastrophe is possible if necessary food aid is forbidden.

    The conflict has also warned of further instability within the region-wide Horn of Ethiopia and Africa. Eritrea has been accused of sending troops to Tigray to return Ethiopian troops, though both Addis Ababa and Asmara deny this.

    “The AU appointed three former African heads of state as envoys to help resolve the conflict in Tigray, although they gained little traction on a visit to Addis Ababa in November last year, with Abi negotiating between the government and the TPLF Rejected, ”Ahmed Soliman, Chatham House’s Horn of Africa Research Fellow, told Al Jazeera.

    “Given the dates and competitive priorities of the member states, I doubt the AU will push for a national dialogue in Ethiopia, which is very much needed to address the critical fault lines in the country,” Solan said.

    Somalia-Kenya dispute

    Somalia broke diplomatic ties with neighboring country Kenya in December, accusing Nairobi of violating Somali sovereignty and focusing in its internal affairs ahead of this year’s general election.

    The move marked the culmination of a steadily deteriorating relationship between the two neighbors, including a dispute over maritime boundaries that now rests with the International Court of Justice.

    “The situation is incredibly serious,” Africa security analyst Abdullahi Boru told Al Jazeera. “The upcoming election of Somalia and the beginning of oral proceedings of the maritime dispute in March make it even more tense.”

    On 30 November, Somalia expelled the Kenyan ambassador and recalled his own envoy from Nairobi, accusing Kenya of interfering in the electoral process of Jubaland, one of its five semi-autonomous states.

    Relations between Somalia’s central government and Kenya between Jubaland are strained as officials in the semi-autonomous region accuse Mogadishu of loyalties to power to oust President Ahmed Madobe and extend central control.

    Madob is a key ally of Kenya, who sees Jubaland as a buffer against al-Shabaab fighters who have staged several bloody attacks across the border.

    “AU can only help bring the temperature down by intervening with the consent of both countries,” Boru said.

    Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute

    Ethiopia and Sudan are embroiled in a tense dispute along their border, with both sides advancing tanks and heavy weapons and accusing each other of advancing into the election arena.

    The two countries share a border of 1,600 km (994 mi) and have long been under dispute over the Al-Fashga region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.

    “The border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia is a matter of grave concern for the region and has the potential to deteriorate without de-escalation efforts and bilateral discussions between the two neighboring countries.”

    Border tension comes at a time when Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are also trying to settle a three-way dispute over the disputed dam, with Ethiopia building on the Blue Nile River, known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GDD) Is known in

    “Ideally the issue would be discussed at the AU summit, even if it took the form of diplomatic negotiations mainly in the margins. However, given that this year’s summit is virtual, it is likely that such mediation efforts will take place. Limits, ”said Soliman.

    Follow Hamza Mohammed on Twitter: @ Hamza_Africa


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