The peace and security situation in the continent is still tenuous and fragile, says the Chairman of African Union (AU) Commission Jean Ping.
Speaking at the opening of the 15th AU summit, Ping said although the last six months were marked by the redoubling of efforts to promote peace and security, compliance with the rule of the law and observance of constitutional order, the progress achieved was still tenuous and fragile.
He said there had been the persistence of certain conflicts citing Guinea Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire and Central African Republic, where the peace process and reconstruction necessitates additional efforts to be achieved.
“2010 has been declared the ‘Year of Peace and Security in Africa’. On the ground, we cannot but admit the persistence of certain conflicts, the eruption of crisis linked to elections and the resurgence of the scourge of coup d’etat,” said Ping in his opening speech at the summit.
In the war torn Somalia, Ping said the fragility of the situation remained a concern, although the Transitional Federal Government has deployed untiring efforts towards dialogue and reconciliation with other Somali stakeholders, reports BuaNews.
He said the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces still faced several challenges. “With regards to AMISOM, the challenges it faces have been real,” said Ping.
He told the African leaders that Guinea was to deploy a battalion of troops for a peacekeeping mission in the volatile Horn of Africa country.
“We should welcome the arrival of the next Guinean battalion and the urgent contributions of troops that IGAD (The Intergovernmental Authority for Development) has decided to make to reach and even surpass the authorised troop limit of 8 000 soldiers,” he said.
Uganda and Burundi are the only countries currently contributing about 6 000 peacekeepers to Somalia under the AMISOM. Security experts have recommended a 27 000 strong peacekeeping force to pacify the situation in Somalia.
The commission is planning the next phases in the deployment of AMISOM in terms of the enlarged mandate, increased troop strength and appropriate equipment, he said.
Meanwhile, significant political and security progress were seen in Sudan especially after the April 2010 general elections, though he said the country is undergoing a very critical phase in its history as it heads to the self determination referendum in southern Sudan in less than six months.
“It is critical that the international community, led by AU and the UN, should continue to closely coordinate its support actions to different Sudanese actors.
“The success of the ongoing process in this country is of highest importance, for if it succeeds, it will have enormous positive impact on the whole continent,” he said, adding that “if it fails, the region and Africa will be the first victims.”
Referring to the situation in Madagascar, an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the south-eastern coast of Africa, Ping said the peace and security situation in the country continues to be a challenge to Africa.
“No progress is to be reported (for Madagascar), despite the efforts deployed by the AU, SADC (Southern African Development Community) and our international partners,” he said.
He said the last six months under review were also marked by a coup d’etat that took place in Niger on February. The country is also facing food scarcity.
On a positive note, Ping said the normalization of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea was a welcome development, as well as the impending re-opening of the Eritrean representation with the AU.
The normalisation of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea is critical and will have a positive impact on the situation in Somalia, which has suffered prolonged war.
During the three-day summit that kicked off Sunday, Heads of State and Government are expected to discuss the peace and security situation in the continent, seek a common position to dissolve the crisis and achieve social and economic development.
The African leaders will also discuss the main agenda of the meeting, which is maternal, infant and child health and development in Africa.