AU Summit Opens in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa-African leaders met in the Ethiopian capital to mark 50 years since the founding of the African Union.

Opening the summit on Saturday that was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign dignitaries, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the AU’s original pan-Africanist aspirations remain relevant for a continent where many states are still struggling to overcome rampant poverty and violence.

“This historic day marks not only a great leap forward in the Pan-Africanist quest for freedom, independence and unity but also the beginning of our collective endeavor for the realisations of Africa’s socio-economic emancipation,” he said.

“The major responsibility of the current and future generations of Africans is.to create a continent free from poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens would enjoy middle- income status.”

African leaders have gathered to witness for the 50th jubilee of the continental bloc, with its many problems set aside for a day to mark the progress that has been made.

Brazil said Saturday it plans to cancel $900mn worth of debt in 12 African countries, as part of a broader strategy to boost ties with the continent.

“The idea of having Africa as a special relationship for Brazil is strategic for Brazil’s foreign policy,” presidential spokesman Thomas Traumann told reporters on the sidelines of African Union celebrations to mark 50 years of the continental bloc, attended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

African leaders were expected to be joined by Francois Hollande, the French president; Wang Yang, China’s vice-premier; and John Kerry, US secretary of state.

Mali is expected to be discussed: it is preparing to receive a UN peacekeeping force to support French soldiers fighting formerly al-Qaeda-linked rebels in the desert north since January.

The agenda will also likely include Madagascar – in political deadlock since a 2009 coup – and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where UN-backed government soldiers are struggling to defeat rebels.

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