Discover the World News Forecast . . . FIRST in Foresight Journalism

African Union leaders meet for 17th Ordinary Summit

June 29, 2011 - EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Anxiety could be high at the June summit of the 54-nation African Union: revolution is in the air, and risk is high for the host country, among other AU members. The 54-nation bloc has to choose responses carefully: praise for pro-democracy uprisings could encourage them, while a blind eye to leaders who won't step down could be construed as tacit support for tyranny - or AU powerlessness. Libya, a founding member of the organization modeled on the European Union, is a case in point. Other main AU issues are the strife in Cote D'Ivoire and security in southern Sudan. The full AU summit takes place in a city built especially for the occasion near the capital, Malabo. It will be preceded by six days of meetings.

Anxiety could be high at the June summit of the 54-nation African Union: revolution is in the air, and risk is high for the host country, among other AU members. The 54-nation bloc has to choose responses carefully: praise for pro-democracy uprisings could encourage them, while a blind eye to leaders who won't step down could be construed as tacit support for tyranny - or AU powerlessness. Libya, a founding member of the organization modeled on the European Union, is a case in point. Other main AU issues are the strife in Cote D'Ivoire and security in southern Sudan. The full AU summit takes place in a city built especially for the occasion near the capital, Malabo. It will be preceded by six days of meetings. The host, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, is a class of leader targeted in the uprisings in the north of the continent: he has ruled tiny Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he seized power in a coup; he exerts almost total control over the political system; and, though oil has given the country wealth, there is little sign it has trickled down to ordinary citizens and made their lives easier. He is being criticized for a clampdown ahead of the summit on groups planning demonstrations during the event. The bloc has responded to the Egyptian uprising with seeming approval: on 16 Feb the bloc expressed "solidarity with the Egyptian people whose desire for democracy is consistent with the relevant instruments of the AU and the continent's commitment to promote democratization, good governance and respect for human rights." The bloc has not turned a blind eye to Muammar Gaddafy's response to the uprising in Libya, and on Feb 23 it condemned "disproportionate force" against the protesters. This could be as far as the bloc is willing to go with scolds to leaders who put down their uprisings with force: any one of them could survive the turmoil and be present at the June summit. Gaddafy is a founder of the bloc, and is likely to be a major source of its funding. The 16th African Union summit, held in Addis Ababa in January failed to find answers for the November presidential election dispute roiling Cote D'Ivoire. The presidents of South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad have been assigned to try to negotiate a deal that will end the impasse. The United Nations has endorsed the election of Alassane Ouattara but his opponent, President Laurent Gbagbo, refuses to leave office. The Security Council warns that civil war could return to the West African country because of the deadlock over leadership. The country suffered a civil war in 2002. In Sudan, the separation of southern Sudan from the north — the high point of the 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war — is proceeding more calmly than anyone expected, relieving the AU of one set of anxieties. The remaining problem relates to the oil-rich region of Abyei between Sudan and the new South Sudan. The borders are unresolved, and conflict is growing. Planning meetings precede the summit from 23 Jun. (WRITTEN Mar 2011)

Former U.N. Official Alarmed Over Africa&rsquos Silence on Libya (VOA 1 Mar 2011)

African Union

Date written/update: 2011-06-29