- Kuwait Times Extra
ADDIS ABABA: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday hailed the African peoples’ aspirations filled with hope for a future dominated by stability, prosperity and wellbeing, in a speech at the African Union’s biannual summit yesterday. “I am pleased to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude and to express my happiness and pride to all of you for inviting us to attend this important summit, which is being held in Africa, a continent which has an integral and effective role on global level,” he said.
The Amir thanked the government and people of Ethiopia for their hospitality. “We meet here today in this ancient capital, recalling with appreciation and gratitude the stance of African countries in supporting the right of Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion, a stance which is consistent with the historical struggle of our brothers in the African continent against injustice and tyranny. Your countries reflected through these magnificent stances the depth of ties connecting us, the unity of the principles and norms that bind us. We must work on all the issues that might enhance our relations and our partnership to the desired level that is appropriate for handling such situations,” he said.
Sheikh Sabah stressed that this summit convened to present to the whole world a shining evidence of the vitality of this union. He said that the summit’s interaction with the developments and events in the contemporary world and its effective contribution in the development of concepts and steps to counteract challenges reflected the importance of the AU. He noted that through the past years, the African Union has realized several achievements in its path toward sustainable development through shared visions and consensus, particularly in building manpower capabilities in order to have the lead in the exploitation of natural resources that abound in the continent, adding that there was no doubt that the promotion of intra-African trade represents a major economic force that imposed a change in the way the world deals with Africa.
Sheikh Sabah said that “in this context I would like to point out that Kuwait has realized the importance of development and cooperation for the benefit of the people and for that reason we established Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), which has spread its activities to 48 states out of 50 member countries of the African Union.” KFAED contributed to financing projects in different sectors including agriculture, transport, energy, water, sanitation, health, education, and others with the total spending on these activities exceeded $6.4 billion, in addition to Kuwait’s aid and grants to the member countries of the Union, which is estimated at about $120 million to build their infrastructure.
In 1996, the Fund participated in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiative to ease the debt burden on states, and was able to reduce the debts for 24 countries of the Union. The Amir said that Kuwait also launched the “decent life initiative” by establishing a fund with a capital of $100 million to help countries meet the basic requirements in view of the difficulties resulting from the global food crisis that erupted in 2007 and 2008, followed by the financial crisis in late 2008. Kuwait also contributed to several funds that were established in Africa to fight hunger and poverty in amounts exceeding $300 million, and committed to an amount of $500 million at a donors conference for east Sudan.
On regional happenings, Sheikh Sabah stated that “we followed with great interest the presidential elections in Egypt, where people exercised their democratic rights in a civilized manner, reflecting the rich culture and civilization of the Egyptian society. We congratulate President Mohamed Morsi for winning the trust of his people.” Kuwait also followed, with contentment, the positive developments achieved in both Tunisia and Libya, wishing all the success to the leaderships in their endeavors towards achieving the aspirations of their peoples.
On Somalia, the Amir called for the necessity of collective work and unified effort to bring security and stability to Somalia to return this country as an active member in the Arab and regional arenas. On the Middle East peace process, Sheikh Sabah indicated that peace shall not be achieved unless Israel was pressured into ceasing settlement activity, and the resolutions of international legitimacy are implemented to enable the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, on the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative.
As for the situation in Syria, he said “it’s imperative for the regime to meet the demands of its people, and implement the six-point initiative of the Joint Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, to stop the bloodshed, and to preserve Syria from sliding into civil war.” The Amir also addressed the Kuwaiti quest for membership as an observer at the African Union and said that “thanks to Allah and your support, it’s an affirmation of the awareness of Kuwait of the political, economic and cultural importance of Africa”. “We eagerly look forward to meet you in Kuwait next year in a new round of our Arab-African joint work represented at the Arab-African Summit. Preparation for that summit has already commenced out of the awareness of the importance of joint work between our countries. We understand the magnitude of responsibility entrusted to us, and we strive to ensure the achievement of the anticipated results,” he said.
“I have followed with admiration the progress of the construction of the new headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa completed in the beginning of this year, which is an architectural work of art. As a contribution from Kuwait in the process of this edifice to be ready for operation, I announce that Kuwait will donate the cost of equipping the headquarters of the General Commission of the African Union with all requirements. In conclusion, we wish your summit the best to achieve your anticipated hopes and aspirations,” Sheikh Sabah added.
AU Commission chairman Jean Ping told African leaders at the opening of the two-day summit that the AU was “prepared to contribute to the establishment of a regional force to put an end to the activities of armed groups” in DR Congo. No further details about the potential force were given at the meeting, attended by both DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, who rejects accusations by UN experts and Kinshasa he supports the mutiny by Congolese troops. “The violence must end immediately, countries of the region ought to respect principle of non-interference,” said UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson.
The renewed violence in the mineral-rich eastern DR Congo is a key focus of the summit as well as conflict elsewhere on the continent, including instability in Mali, and the ongoing crisis between Sudan and South Sudan. Ping described the crisis in Mali – where authorities are struggling to tackle Islamist militants who control the vast desert north – as “one of the most serious threats to security and stability of the continent”. “The situation in the north of Mali… is alarming and is a threat to the region and beyond,” Eliasson added.
However, signs of improvement were seen in the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, following fierce battles in April and March along their contested oil-rich border. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir of South Sudan shook hands warmly, following their first face-to-face talks on Saturday since the border fighting took them to the brink of all-out war. For once, Ping noted positive changes in war-torn Somalia, praising the nations who had sent troops to battle the Al-Qaeda linked Shabab, including Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda in the 17,000-strong AU force, as well as Ethiopia. “The prospects for peace have never looked so encouraging,” said Ping.
However, the hotly contested AU leadership race is expected to dominate later proceedings. South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is challenging Gabon’s Ping, the current commission chairman, after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote at the last summit six months ago, leaving Ping in the post. Benin’s president and current AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi warned that another failure to agree on a new head would damage the reputation of the 54-member body. “The current situation cannot drag on without undermining the running of the African Union and tarnishing its image,” Yayi told the summit. Egypt’s Morsi called on countries to “work towards electing a chairman… on the basis of a consensus among all AU countries”.
Analysts say unwritten tradition is that continental powerhouses do not run for the post – leaving smaller nations to take the job – and that South Africa’s decision to override this rule has sparked bad feeling. However, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns the vote could divide the AU. “I don’t think the continent will be polarised,” she said. “Whoever will be elected will make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for.” If no chair is selected at this summit, Ping – who has held the post since 2008 – could legally be asked to stay on as leader until the next summit in Jan 2013. – Agencies
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