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    NewsAfricaLibya, free trade zone... what to remember from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa

    Libya, free trade zone… what to remember from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa

    Published on : 02/19/2023 – 22:43Modified : 02/19/2023 – 22:45

    This weekend was the 36th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Security, peace, economy…the subjects of discussion were numerous. Among the stated objectives of the AU: the organization of a conference on Libya and the creation of an African continental free trade area.

    The African Union (AU) has announced that it is working on the forthcoming organization of a national reconciliation conference on Libya on Sunday February 19 at the end of its 36th summit during which it maintained the suspension of four countries led by soldiers.

    “We have brought together the different parties and we are working with them on the date and place of the national conference” on Libya which will be held “under the aegis of the high-level committee of the African Union”, chaired by Congolese head of state Denis Sassou Nguesso, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, told AFP.

    Libya has been plunged into a major political crisis since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The country is plagued by divisions between East and West and by foreign interference. Two rival governments are now vying for power, one based in Tripoli – and recognized by the UN -, the other in Sirte (center). The east and part of the south are de facto controlled by Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

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    A presidential and legislative double ballot, initially scheduled for December 2021 to stabilize the country, has been postponed indefinitely, due to differences over the legal basis of the elections and the presence of controversial candidates.

    “A preparatory meeting took place a few weeks ago in Tripoli”, the Libyan capital, said Moussa Faki Mahamat, before concluding: “The departure of the mercenaries has been requested, (…) it is necessary that the Libyans talk to each other, I believe this is a prerequisite for going to elections in a peaceful country”.

    Protect Democracy

    The AU, which concluded its annual summit on Sunday in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the continental organization, reaffirmed its “zero tolerance” against “unconstitutional changes” of government and maintained the suspension from its ranks of Burkina Faso, the Mali, Guinea and Sudan.

    Mali, Guinea and Sudan were suspended by the African Union in 2021, Burkina a year later, after the military seized power.

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    Democracy must be “protected” and “take root” and the African Union “remains intransigent against any undemocratic accession to power”, insisted Bankole Adeoye, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security.

    The summit was also marked on Saturday by the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat, the Jewish state accusing Iran of being behind this “serious” measure with the complicity of Algeria and South Africa.

    By 2022, the AU had failed to close its discussions on Israel’s controversial accreditation as an observer country. Algeria and South Africa in particular argued against. Moussa Faki Mahamat said Sunday that accreditation was “suspended” for the time being and that the AU had “not invited Israeli officials” to the summit.

    “Unfair” financial system

    African leaders also announced the objective of accelerating the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlec), which should bring together 1.3 billion people.

    All the countries of the AU have signed up to it, with the exception of Eritrea, but the discussions are stumbling over the timetable for reductions in customs duties, in particular for the least developed countries.

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    The task ahead is “ambitious but it is achievable”, said Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean of around 850,000 inhabitants, who took over the rotating presidency of the AU following Macky Sall, the Senegalese head of state.

    Moussa Faki Mahamat affirmed that this agreement was “strategic”, while pointing out the challenges, on a continent where 600 million people do not have access to electricity.

    Saturday, before the plenary assembly of the summit, the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres denounced a “dysfunctional and unfair” international financial system which sees African countries borrowing money at “exorbitant” interest rates.

    For Antonio Guterres, Africa is facing “enormous challenges (…) on almost all fronts”, suffering the consequences of crises for which it is in no way responsible. The Secretary General of the United Nations also announced that the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) would release 250 million dollars to help populations in need of humanitarian aid.

    With AFP

    Source: France 24


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