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Ethiopia hosts 16th Ordinary Session of African Union leaders

January 30, 2011 - ADDIS ABABA

The 16th Ordinary Summit of the African Union meets to talk about Shared Values and the host of pressing problems on the continent. These include Somali Islamist rebels, the contested presidency of the Ivory Coast and the aftermath of the independence vote in the south of Sudan. The rebels sent a bloody message to the bloc during the World Cup -- bomb attacks in Kampala that killed 76 people. The summit might see a decision on intervening in the Ivory Coast dispute.

The 16th Ordinary Summit of the African Union meets to talk about Shared Values and the host of pressing problems on the continent. These include Somali Islamist rebels, the contested presidency of Ivory Coast and the aftermath of the independence vote in the south of Sudan. The rebels sent a bloody message to the bloc during the World Cup -- bomb attacks in Kampala that killed 76 people. The AU leaders decided at the 15th summit to increase AU peacekeeper troops in Somalia and free them to take preemptive action against the rebels invites follow-up messages before or during the summit. The AU has already been busy in Ivory Coast, sending in a negotiator almost as soon as the dispute over the country's leadership erupted. The internationally-recognized winner of the presidential election is former prime minister Alassane Ouattara. The incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refuses to step down. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is threatening to use military force to remove Gbagbo if he does not hand over power, but could be urged by the AU and the international community to stick with negotiating to avoid any escalation in bloodshed. ; In southern Sudan, which held a referendum to decide on independence from Khartoum in January, the results have yet to be announced. If the vote is for secession, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is not expected to wave goodbye to the oil rich area of the huge country without a fight. And the south is likely to revolt if he tries to override their wishes. The AU leaders are likely to be weighing the bloc's options in either contingency.;; ; The Kampala attacks diverted significant attention from the theme of the July summit, which was maternal, infant and child health, but monitoring panels have been set in place that will be reporting at the 16th summit on progress with the initiative. Quoted in New Vision, summit chairman President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi added that leaders had agreed to prioritise the welfare of women and safe motherhood at the top of their development agendas this year. "If we improve the welfare of women, access to food and health care, maternal mortality will significantly reduce," he said. Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin, an Islamist extremist group that controls most of central and western, Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. It has said the aim of the attacks was to force the withdrawal of AU troops, who have been helping to sustain Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. The group, which includes foreign jihardists, has declared loyalty to al-Qaeda and seeks to topple the transitional government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, which has limited authority over a country divided by competing factions since 1991. The authority of the transitional government is limited to parts of the capital Mogadishu. In July, the bloc decided to send an additional 4000 troops to bolster the force of 6000, called AMISOM, already stationed there. Previously, the AMISOM troops, deployed in the capital since 2007 as mission support for the transitional government, could only respond to attacks. The new AU mandate allows them launch pre-emptive strikes against the rebels. (Last updated Jan 2011)

Ivory Coast: Odinga makes fresh AU mediation attempt (BBC 17 Jan 2011)

Sudan's referendum concludes - in pictures (Guardian 17 Jan 2011)

Decisions at 15th AU summit Jul 2010 (AU monitor)

African Union agrees to beef up Somalia force (AFP 26 Jul 2010)

Date written/update: 2011-01-30