African conflicts to dominate AU summit

2013-01-26 10:37:27 GMT2013-01-26 18:37:27(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Ronald Ssekandi

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- African leaders will meet here Sunday for the 20th African Union (AU) Summit, at a time when their continent is facing a wave of conflicts.

Current hot spots include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.

In eastern DRC, the Ugandan government has been heading regional efforts to mediate talks between M23 rebels and the DRC government since Dec. 9, following five regional summits dedicated to stopping escalation.

More than 475,000 people have been displaced due to the fighting and more than 75,000 others have fled to neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, the mediator in the DRC peace process, said the conflict parties were now engaged in substantial talks after having agreed on the agenda.

Speaking in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on Jan. 11, Kiyonga also cautioned the uncoordinated international efforts to pacify the mineral-rich country were derailing the process.

Africa must remain united in solving its own problems instead of letting foreigners with ulterior motives take over, he said.

Following the flaring-up of fighting in eastern DRC, Great Lakes regional leaders intervened, calling on member states to deploy a 4,000-strong Neutral International Force (NIF) to fight the various local and foreign rebel groups holed up in the country.

However, there is contention on whether the NIF is necessary as there is already a UN peace keeping force, MONUSCO, in eastern DRC. Regional leaders are critical of MONUSCO, accusing it of looking on as hundreds of thousands of Congolese are made homeless.

According to Kiyonga, the Addis Ababa AU summit will discuss the controversy.

The ongoing peace talks between Saleka rebels and the CAR government is also likely to feature at the summit.

CAR President Francois Bozize and rebel representatives agreed on Jan. 11 to form a national unity government under a peace deal that will end nearly a month of fighting in the country.

Meanwhile, AU President Thomas Boni Yayi said during a visit to Uganda on Jan. 17 that he fully supported the decision to send an international peace-keeping force to Mali to battle extremist rebels in its northern region.

Troops from the Economic Community of West African States are expected in Mali soon. France has already intervened militarily to stop rebels advancing southwards.

The ongoing battle against Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels marauding in the jungles of DRC and CAR is also likely to be discussed by the leaders.

Last year, the AU deployed 5,000 troops from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and CAR, and the United States sent 100 military advisers to help in the hunt.

U.S. President Barack Obama this month assented to an amended law that provides a cash reward for whoever arrests LRA leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders.

The South Sudan-Sudan question is also likely to be high on the agenda of the African leaders. The leaders of the two countries have been meeting to iron out their differences since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

The summit will be held under the theme of "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance," which is geared towards putting Africa in charge of its future.

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