News 2008


Africa summit wraps up amid concern over Kenya, Chad

02. Feb. 2008

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) African Union leaders on Saturday discussed means of containing spiralling violence in Chad and Kenya on the last day of a summit which highlighted the body's challenges in solving its own conflicts.

Leaders gathered in Addis Ababa for the 53-state organisation's 10th summit held a special session to discuss the crises in Kenya, Chad and the Comoros ahead of the closing ceremony.

"The Chad situation is a big preoccupation. We are deeply preoccupied," said Jean Ping, chairman-elect of the AU commision, the body's main executive arm.

Fighting broke out Saturday between government troops and rebel forces just north of the capital Ndjamena, following a massive rebel offensive.

Ping, who is currently Gabon's foreign minister and will take over from Alpha Oumar Konare at the helm of the AU in three months, also reiterated the body's concern over the violence in Kenya.

"We want to act, that's for sure. In Kenya, there is already Kofi Annan for a mediation chosen by (outgoing AU chairman John) Kufuor. This mediation is at work," he told reporters.

Kenyan police said Saturday that 37 people were killed in a fresh day of violence, the latest spate of killings since nationwide violence was ignited by the disputed December re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.

The chaos in Kenya, usually considered a haven of stability in a region beset by conflicts, has loomed large over the three-day summit and fueled concerns of fresh unrest spreading in eastern Africa.

But the summit also de facto endorsed the results of the December 27 election despite mounting evidence that they were flawed by welcoming Kibaki among his peers in Addis Ababa.

Kibaki addressed African leaders on Friday and claimed he represented his country's majority, blaming the opposition for the violence.

"In such situations, the accepted rule is to resort to the established constitutional mechanism," he said.

"Regrettably, although the election results reflected the will of the majority of Kenyans, the leaders in the opposition instigated a campaign of civil unrest that resulted in over 800 deaths."

AU leaders had been due to explore ways of boosting the body's credibility on the international scene and exploring more effective ways of solving the continent's own conflicts.

"Our continent's future is in our hands," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said Thursday after being chosen as the AU's new chairman.

But the organisation, which already has large and embattled peacekeeping contingents in Sudan's Darfur region and in Somalia, faced another setback in the Comoros, where its efforts to rein in a rebel island failed.

The Indian Ocean archipelago's president, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, said Friday that the AU had accepted that military intervention against the island of Anjouan was an option and vowed to take decisive action very soon.

The latest developments in the former French colony of Chad have delayed the deployment of a European peace mission tasked with protecting refugees from Sudan's neighbouring Darfur region.

The fighting also raises new challenges for a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force being deployed in Darfur, amid mutual accusations between Chad and Sudan of support for the other's rebels.

"This attack means that everything is up in the air," said one AU official, who declined to be identified.

During the summit, African leaders studied an audit which was ordered a year ago into the organisation's management, which had come under criticism during Konare's five-year tenure.

Ping's election, which came in the first round of voting despite pre-summit concerns that divisions could delay the succession by six months, was welcomed by delegates.

"I know that he's a man of many qualities. He's capable of representing the whole of Africa," Libyan Minister for African Affairs Ali Triki told reporters.