FOLLOWING protracted criticisms over what many view as frequent foreign trip in the face of acute security challenges, President Goodluck Jonathan is absent at the AU Summit beginning today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Issues of development and strategies to stem poverty, disease, conflicts and indebtedness are almost taking the back seat as jostle for vacant positions in the commission and specialised agencies is intensified.
Nigeria is backing incumbent Gabonese Jean Ping for the position of chairperson of the Commission, even as it pushes the candidacy of its former ambassador to Guinea Dr. Hajia Aisha Laraba Abdulahi as Commissioner for Political Affairs.
South Africa, which, alongside Nigeria, is among the big five players in the AU, contributing about 70 per cent of its check up dues, has again fielded its national, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for the position, thus rekindling a simmering rivalry. Other members of the big five are Egypt, Algeria and Libya.
Nigerian diplomats in Addis Ababa are working hard to ensure that the absence of President Jonathan does not affect the fortunes of the country on who becomes the next chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission and candidacy for the position of Commissioner for Political Affairs.
The 19th African Union (AU) Summit of Heads of State and Government begins today in the Ethiopian capital with the theme: ‘Boosting Intra-Africa Trade’ at the plenary hall of the new Chinese-built Conference Centre.
Nigeria is sending a large delegation to the summit led, in the absence of President Jonathan, by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru. Apart from the technical team, Ashiru is being supported by government functionaries that include the Minister of State for Health, Mohammed Pate, and the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, Professor Bola Akinterinwa. The State House sent an advanced party with an earlier indication that the Vice President, Nnamadi Sambo, would be present in Addis.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of African Union (AU), Dr. Boni Yayi, has urged leaders of member-states to demonstrate political will, leadership and accountability to reverse challenges facing the continent in the fight against Human Immune deficiency Virus (HIV), Tuberculosis and Malaria, and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Yayi, who made the appeal yesterday at a meeting of AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) Action Committee of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, also urged the continent not to be complacent following recent successes record against the diseases. There are still battles to fight, Yayi warned.
The AU Chairman had earlier reported that nearly every country in Africa has achieved success by saving lives through preventing new HIV infections, including mother to child transmission and preventing AIDS-related deaths as well as morbidity from Tuberculosis and Malaria.
He also announced that 5,000,000 Africans are receiving antiretroviral treatment– up from 50,000, a decade ago.
Nigeria’s position stems from an unwritten convention from the days of the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the effect that the administrative machinery of the body be held by a country outside the main financial contributors.
There were precipitate meetings yesterday by the AU Executive Council and the Peace and Security Council.
Tomorrow’s assembly will not only consider the report of the Peace and Security Council on its initiatives, it will also appraise the activities of the Panel of the Wise.
High up for consideration is the report of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) by Ethiopian Prime Minister and chairperson of the NEPAD heads of state and government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) Meles Zenawi.
There is also a report on Africa’s preparation for the climate change negotiations at the 18th conference of parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP18) by Zenawi who also doubles as coordinator of the Committee of Africa Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).
Dr. Boni Yayi added that about 60 per cent of TB cases are now detected, notified and treated while Malaria mortality in Africa has fallen on the average by more than 33 per cent, and in some countries about 50 per cent since 2000.
He said he is happy to note that with the way Africa is moving towards achieving universal access to HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria as envisaged by Abuja Call 2006, some member-states may achieve universal access by 2015.
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