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This is a transcript of the Press briefing by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that gives a round-up of the just-ended 24th Ordinary Summit of the African Union General Assembly.

As you know the first item on the agenda of the summit was the election of the bureau which will guide the business of the continent for the next 12 months. We have the honour and the privilege of being nominated by the southern African region to be Chair of the African Union.

So during the opening session, his Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe was elected unanimously Chair of the African Union for the next 12 months.

The first Vice Chair was Democratic Republic of Congo, the second Vice Chair is Niger, the third Vice Chair is Kenya and rapporteur is Mauritania so that the bureau consists of five heads of state, one from each of the five regions.

As you appreciate, this was a great honour for our President Cde R. G Mugabe to be elected to this very important post in our organisation. It was recognition of his stature in our continent.

As we all know he is probably the only sitting Head of State and Government who participated in the founding meeting of the OAU back in 1963 when he attended representing the liberation movement in Zimbabwe and so the Southern Africa region (and this was endorsed by the entire continent) recognised that his presence as the Chair of our organisation would be a kind of a link a bridge between the origins of our organisation, the founders of our organisation and the current generations most of whom are only familiar with the ideals of the OAU, now the AU, from what they have been able to read, President Mugabe lived it, he rubbed shoulders with the greats of Kwame Nkrumah, Abdel Nasser and of course Mwalimu (Julius) Nyerere was able to outlast the others because he only passed on fairly recently but this is the generation that President Mugabe was able to rub shoulders with and interact with and now he is interacting with the current generation of leadership and it was therefore natural that they should recognise this and nominate him in southern Africa and the entire continent to elect him unanimously.

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi 2015 Budget

The second item which was considered by the summit is of cause the 2015 budget of the organisation. The budget is about US$400 million, but there is one disappointment relating to how the budget of our organisation is constituted.

The member-states contribute only 28 percent of the budget, the remaining 72 percent is provided by donors who we normally refer to as co-operating partners. This situation is obviously unsustainable and the heads of state took note of this and resolved that steps should be taken to change this situation so that the organisation is able to fund its own operations and its own programmes. As a result, the Summit adopted mechanisms for generating extra budgetary resources, alternative ways of raising funds to run our organisation. The summit resolved that within a period of five years they were determined to make sure that the AU is able to finance 100 percent of its operations, 75 percent of its programmes and at least 25 percent of its peacekeeping operations within the next 5 years and of course this process would be expected to continue until the African Union can be able to finance itself from its own resources.

The Summit adopted recommendations of the ministers of finance who met late last year to consider how extra budgetary resources can be raised. They recommended that countries could consider imposing levies on air tickets for those travellers originating from their countries, levy on hotel beds for those who patronise the hospitality business in their countries and thirdly they could also impose levies on mobile communications things such as SMS, charging a very small percentage that would generate a lot of resources as you all know so the ministers of finance are going to meet to operationalise this decision by the Summit so that this resolution is implemented in full.

Summit Theme

The theme of the Summit related to women empowerment and development towards Agenda 2063. This theme is extremely important because the empowerment of women is absolutely essential if our continent is going to develop. And so his Excellency President Mugabe launched this theme for 2015 and it was resolved that a full scale discussion and debate was going to be undertaken during the Summit of the Heads of State and Government due to be held in June this year.

Agenda 2063

The next item related to the adoption of Agenda 2063 which is an all embracing blueprint for Africa’s development over the next 50 years. This programme is going to be implemented in five, 10-year plans and the first 10-year plan is going to start being implemented this year under the chairmanship of President Mugabe.

So he is going to lay the foundations on the policies and principles that underlie Agenda 2063 which is what Africa would want to see itself become over the next 50 years. The blueprint focuses on infrastructure development and industrialisation as the principal pillars on which Africa must develop. On infrastructure, development of roads and rail networks throughout the continent would be a priority and will be part of the programme of the first 10-year plan. In the Energy sector the Great Inga Dam project will be the main focus because it is believed (this is in the DRC) it has the capacity to provide electric power to the entire continent and even be able to export outside Africa in areas such as Europe.

So this will also be part of the first 10 year plan.

The next will relate to creating a single African aviation market. One of the problems that Africa has is that each country has got its own airline with most of them being hardly viable and so the intention here is to try and see if we cannot bring together our various airlines so that they can operated in a co-ordinated manner and be able to be far more competitive when they relate to other airlines which are much bigger from outside because the Yamoussoukro Declaration calls for the opening up of skies and if you open up and you have small airlines then you are not able to be competitive and therefore become unviable.

So this is one of the targets. The next one relates to outer space which as you know is essential for the communication sector and Africa is determined to participate in these very important enterprise. So these are some of the aspects which will constitute part of the first 10-year plan under Agenda 2063.

The Ebola Virus

One of issues that pre-occupied the summit relates to the Ebola virus as you know countries in West Africa particularly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been hit very hard by this particular disease. So the Heads of State and Government emphasised that it is important for the African continent to avoid discriminating against nationals of these countries and avoid stigmatising them which is believed might have happened in some parts of our continent.

The Summit also decided to urgently set up a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in order to be ready for any future outbreaks of similar diseases.

The Summit also recommended that international financial institutions and indeed the international community should seriously consider cancelling the debts of these countries that have been affected by the Ebola virus in particular Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It was also resolved that a global conference on Ebola should be held during the course of this year.

Peace and Security

In the area of peace and security, the areas of concern related to countries like Libya, Mali, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia where instabilities are currently occurring and the Summit urged our Commission to co-ordinate efforts to try and bring about peace and stability in these regions.

The issue of terrorism was also discussed and terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, Lord’s Resistance Army, and Al-Shabaab were gly condemned and the Summit resolved that efforts should be made to get the African Union to co-operate with countries in the affected regions in trying to bring about the end of terrorism in these parts of our continent.

The issue of Western Sahara was also considered and the Summit called upon Morocco to end its occupation of Western Sahara in order to ensure that the people of Western Sahara exercise their right to self-determination. An issue also came up whereby Morocco has decided to host a meeting of a European business organisation called Crans Montana in Western Sahara and this was roundly condemned and the Summit called upon all business communities on the continent to boycott this business conference if it is held in any part of Western Sahara which is currently occupied by Morocco.

As usual, a resolution was passed on Palestine calling upon Israel to end its occupation so that an independent state of Palestine can be created respecting the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

And as you recall that during the Sadc Summit in Victoria Falls last year, his Excellency President Mugabe made a very impassioned plea for the honour of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that his contribution to the liberation of this continent was second to none yet so far Africa had done nothing to recognise his contribution so the Summit resolved to honour Mwalimu Julius Nyerere by naming the newly-completed Peace and Security building the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Peace and Security Building and it is expected, it has been suggested that maybe the former liberation movements could put their resources together to erect a larger than life statue of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in front of this Peace and Security Headquarters here at the seat of the African Union.

These are some of the issues that came up for discussion and the resolutions which the Summit took.

Source : The Herald