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from issue no. 09 - 2003

PERSPECTIVES. The last summit of the African Union as viewed by missionaries

First steps on a long road

The editor of Africa, the magazine of the White Fathers, makes an assessment of the summit which was held in July at Maputo in Mozambique. The time of anti-Western rhetoric ended, the leaders of the 53 African nations who belong to the AU sought ways of coming together to resolve problems such as the bringing of peace to the continent, the fight against hunger and AIDS

by Davide Malacaria

Alpha Oumar Konaré, president of Mali, was elected president of the Commission of the African Union (AU)

Alpha Oumar Konaré, president of Mali, was elected president of the Commission of the African Union (AU)

Africa attempts to question itself about the problems of the forgotten continent and to seek ways of agreement. Certainly the road to concrete results is long and hard, but the attempt is worth making. At Maputo, in Mozambique, from 11 to 14 July, the annual session of the African Union (AU) was held. We asked Father Claudio Zuccala, who three months ago was appointed editor of Africa, the twice monthly magazine of the White Fathers, the Congregation founded in 1868 by the then archbishop of Algiers, Charles Lavigerie, and entirely dedicated to the evangelization of Africa and to Christian witness in Islamic countries, about what happened during this summit and the possible developments of the African Union.

What happened at the summit in Maputo?
CLAUDIO ZUCCALA: The fruit of this summit is not so much in the public declarations as in the contacts that take place behind the scenes. From the point of view of the final declarations it is not that steps forward were made. The subjects addressed in the summit were essentially three, that is, the conflicts present on the continent, of which there are at present 11 “major” ones, the spread of AIDS and the fight against poverty. On the first point the importance of the creation of an African military force ready to be used in peacekeeping actions was confirmed. The scourge of AIDS was analyzed both from a humanitarian standpoint and from that of its economic impact on the sub-Saharan countries. With regard to the fight against hunger what emerged from the Durban summit of 2002 was more or less confirmed.
Which is?
ZUCCALA: The only realistic way of attempting ways of development on the continent are in fact through NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), born from an idea of Thabo Mbeki and created by the AU itself last year. The plan grows out of the need to find the financing necessary to invest in development projects, and the international contingency which sees the West reluctant to invest in Africa, a continent at risk because of the situation of social and political degradation. NEPAD will commit its member countries to creating the conditions necessary to be able to guarantee foreign investments. These guarantees range from the political plan – the undertaking to repect democratic principles – to the economic one – transparency in the managing of funds – to the social one – respect for human rights. The founding countries of NEPAD, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria, have committed themselves first of all to giving example in this direction and, secondly, to using their influence on neighboring countries so that internally the requirements foreseen by the plan may be developed.
At African summits accusations are often made against the West indicating it as the main architect of African tragedies. Did this happen at Maputo?
ZUCCALA: In reality the change of name, from OAU ( the Organization for African Unity) to AU (the African Union), which happened last year in Durban was not just a formal change. Among other things there was the desire to break with a past in which a certain anti-Western rhetoric took up time and space without bearing any fruit. This was also seen at Maputo, where such polemics were almost completely absent.
Do you think that it is possible to arrive at an African Parliament?
ZUCCALA: Already at the summit in Durban a plan was drawn up for its realization and dates were set. The African Parliament should be a reality already by the end of the year. But at Durban it was decided that before realizing the pan-African Parliament, the States of the AU should underwrite a protocol for peace and security. For the adoption of this protocol the adherence to it of the majority of the member countries, which is 27, was foreseen. In reality, so far, only 14 States have agreed to sign. It was thought that by the end of the Maputo summit the necessary agreements would have been reached, but this did not happen. The commitment to speed the process of signing is still there, but the uncertainty remains.
What does this protocol for peace and secutity foresee?
ZUCCALA: It foresees the committment to guarantee democracy within the signatory country. On the other hand it is also normal that persons who have been elected by the people should sit in the African Parliament and not dictators. Further, and it is certainly not a secondary aspect, the protocol foresees the creation of an African peace force to use in crisis areas. This would have the advantage, with respect to analogous UN initiatives , of being able to be ready at short notice and to be deployed before the crises degenerate. This at least in theory.
Why is there reluctance about signing this protocol?
ZUCCALA: The adherents commit themselves to respect certain rules of democracy, to put order on their houses. Evidently not all of them wish to do so.
However, even if this African peace keeping force does not yet exist, the African States have for some years begun sending troops to put an end to some of the conflicts that devastate the continent ….
The embrace between the South African Thabo Mbeki and the President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano during the summit of the African Union (AU) which was held in Maputo, in Mozambique, from July 11 to 14 2003

The embrace between the South African Thabo Mbeki and the President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano during the summit of the African Union (AU) which was held in Maputo, in Mozambique, from July 11 to 14 2003

ZUCCALA: If you’re referring to the intervention in Burundi or to some interventions made in the countries of Northwest Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in particular, then, yes, something has been seen. We are talking about interventions developed within the regional African organizations, but they are certainly not enough to resolve the many conflicts that are bloodying the continent. So true is this that, in many other cases, intervention from the West was required in order to restore peace, as in Sierra Leone a few years ago when the English intervened, or recently in the Ivory Coast and in Ituri, where the French intervened, and in Liberia, where the intervention of the United States is invoked. At the Maputo summit the EU proposed to contribute actively to the realization of this pan-African military force by contributing arms and means. The proposal was accepted, though it still remains a hypothesis. One point remains to be clarified which, at least for me, causes perplexity: the finances for this EU contribution to the pan-African force would have to come by diverting money destined for development ….
At the Maputo summit a new president of the AU was elected, the former president of Mali, Alpha Oumar Konaré. Do you know him?
ZUCCALA: No. Konaré however, in reality, was elected president of the Commission of the African Union, and in effect will fulfil the functions of the secretariat of the organization, remaining in the position for the next four years. The presidency of the African Union, an office more honorary than substantial, is on the other hand rotated among the presidents of the 53 African countries adhering to the AU and is at the moment the appanage of Joaquim Chissano, the actual president of Mozambique. I believe however that the presence of the Secretary of the United Nations Kofi Annan was also important.
Someone noted that the recent visit to Africa of the president of the United States, George Bush, took place in the same days as the Maputo summit, underlining the inappropriateness ….
ZUCCALA: In fact. It was noted that the South African president Mbeki was forced to desert the preparatory works of the summit to receive Bush, as the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni was also constrained to anticipate his departure for the same reason. In this coincidence some saw the usual arrogance on the part of the Americans. However the heads of African States gathered in Maputo, apart from the predictable and histrionic Gheddafi, did not raise complaints about this. And it was a benefit.
A last question: Islamic States and the Christian majority participate in the AU. At these summits are questions regarding the relationship between Islam and Christianity raised?
ZUCCALA: No. Thank God, no.

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