Mabasa Sasa Harare Bureau
IT may be President Robert Mugabe’s farewell to the African Union Chairmanship after a stellar year of steering the ship, but it will be by no means a picnic.
The draft agenda of the 26th Summit of the AU points to a busy year ahead for the outgoing Chair, his Chadian successor, and all members of the bloc.
President Mugabe officially opens the Summit on Saturday, with proceedings formally closing the next day.
And in those 48 hours, Africa’s leadership will have to debate several key issues relating to women’s empowerment, peace and stability, food security, infrastructure development and the post-2015 development agenda, among other issues.
Some of the matters under discussion are likely to be referred to the mid-year Ordinary Summit, but many of them require urgent resolution and implementation.
The AU’s theme for 2016 is “African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on Women Rights”.
Proceedings start with a closed session during which “strategic issues” will be under consideration — likely a euphemism for sensitive peace and security matters.
Thereafter comes the official opening, which President Mugabe will address in his capacity as AU Chair.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is also expected to address African leaders, as will other dignitaries.
What follows is another closed session that will cover adoption of the agenda and the grind of debating the topical issues at Heads of State and Government level.
Several reports are up for discussion for possible inclusion in final decisions.
These include reports by the Peace and Security Council, and others by Presidents Macky Sall (Senegal) on Nepad, Ernest Koroma (Sierra Leone) on proposed United Nations reforms, Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) on the African Peer Review Mechanism, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) on the post-2015 development agenda, and Abdel El Sisi (Egypt) on climate change.
In the lead up to the Summit, the Committee of Permanent Representatives met under the chairmanship of Zimbabwe’s chief diplomat to the AU, Ambassador Albert Chimbindi.
On Tuesday, the Executive Council of Ministers held a retreat in Mekelle, with Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi chairing, with that meeting themed “Implementation of Agenda 2063”.
The Executive Council’s mandate is to prepare the Summit agenda.
Present at the retreat were Chair of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and other senior officials and representatives of regional blocs and continental institutions such as the African Development Bank.
Referring to a song on Agenda 2063 composed by Zimbabwean artistes and played at the opening ceremony, Dlamini-Zuma said: “I would like to thank the Zimbabwean artistes who came up with that song on Agenda 2063, and I challenge all of us to encourage our artistes to compose as many songs as possible … Of course as the Chair of the Union, Zimbabwe led from the front”.
Minister Mumbengegwi spoke on progress made in implementing Agenda 2063.
He stressed that “as we continue streamlining and improving the working methods of our Union, we also need to consider how best we can align our bi-annual Summits in order to improve the effectiveness of our organisation and give ourselves ample time to implement our decisions”.
Ministers were expected to adopt the Mekelle Ministerial Retreat Draft Outcomes to be tabled at the Executive Council meeting proper on January 27 and 28.