Published on January 27, 2013 by pmnews · No Comments
Outgoing African Union chairman Thomas Boni Yayi told African leaders Sunday in Addis Ababa their response to the conflict in Mali had been too slow, and thanked France for taking the lead in its military intervention in the country.
Boni Yayi, Benin’s president, told leaders at the opening of the 54-member AU summit that the body’s response had taken too long, and that France’s action was something “we should have done a long time ago to defend a member country”.
Conflict in Mali, including the scaling-up of African troops to support the weak Malian army battling Islamist militants, dominated the opening of the two-day summit, although flashpoints elsewhere on the continent were also a concern.
“Much still needs to be done to resolve ongoing, renewed, and new conflict situations in a number of countries,” AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in her opening speech at the bi-annual meeting in the Ethiopian capital.
Unrest in eastern Democractic Republic of Congo, tensions between former civil war foes Sudan and newly independent South Sudan, and efforts to build peace in chronically unstable Somalia, will also be discussed.
“We cannot overemphasise the need for peace and security — without peace and security no country or region can expect to achieve prosperity for all its citizens,” Dlamini-Zuma added.
Mali’s army, boosted by the recent French military intervention, is battling Islamist insurgents who seized swathes of Mali’s desert north following a coup last year.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon told the summit he was “determined to do everything to help the people of Mali”, but also urged the government to ensure “an inclusive political process” and the “full restoration of the constitutional order”.
The 20th ordinary summit, which continues Monday, opened with a minute’s silence in memory of the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, who died last year.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who took over Sunday from Boni Yayi in the rotating one-year post of AU chairperson, called for “peaceful solutions” to conflict.
The AU has said it wants to bolster the strength of the African-led force in Mali, or AFISMA. On Friday, its security council gave member states one week to commit troops to the mission.