By Paul Ndiho
The 28th African Union Summit has ended, but not before its leaders made two major decisions; selecting the foreign minister of chad to the top post of the continental body — and readmitting morocco to the group.
The African Union on Monday elected Chadian Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, as its new commission chairperson. In the final round of voting, he beat out Kenya’s top diplomat, Amina Mohamed. The 56-year old Faki takes over from South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who remained in the post an extra six months, after leaders failed to agree on a candidate last July. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.” AU members also discussed the divisive issue of Africa’s relationship to the International Criminal Court.
Dlamini Zuma, who now is widely believed to be in the running for the presidency of the African National Congress, also spoke out against the new travel ban by U.S. President Donald Trump barring travelers from seven muslim-majority countries including the African nations of Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
“The very country (where) our people were taken as slaves… has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,”
The new U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres spoke at the summit, and commended African countries for opening their borders to refugees and people fleeing violence, while nations in other parts of the world, including the West, are closing their borders and making plans to build walls.
“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees… `African borders remain open for those in need of protection when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world.”
Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 18 million refugees, about 26 percent of the world’s refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The refugees have fled conflicts in Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi. The world’s largest refugee camp is the Dadaab facility in Kenya, which houses more than 300-thousand people, mostly from neighboring Somalia. However, last year, the Kenyan government announced its intentions to close Dadaab, which has been open for more than 20 years. Kenyan officials say the camp harbors Islamic extremists and is a security threat.
In another related development, guinea’s president Alpha Conde has succeeded Chad’s president Idris Deby as chairman of the African union.
Meanwhile, The African Union formally admitted Morocco as a member on Tuesday, more than three decades after Rabat withdrew from the predecessor organization.
Morocco’s King Mohammad, who had been campaigning since last year to join, waved to applauding heads of state and delegates at the end of an annual summit.
The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute about the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.