South Africa massacre commission visits scene

34 striking miners were gunned down by police last monthA commission set up by South African President Jacob Zuma to investigate the shooting at Lonmin's platinum mine where 34 striking miners were gunned down by police last month continued with its site visits on Tuesday.

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First Woman head of the African Union emerges

New AU Commission leader, Nkosazana Dlamini-ZumaThe African Union (AU) Commission on Sunday elected its first woman leader after South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma emerged winner in a closely contested election against the incumbent Jean Ping.


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Beyond GDP lies Economic Degrowth

The expression Beyond GDP, is in fashion in Brussels among some European civil servants and politicians, 40 years after Commission President Sicco Mansholt had already criticized GDP, and had proposed an end to economic growth in rich countries. The slogan in Brussels is "the greening of the economy: beyond GDP".


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AU summit: Morsi, first Egyptian president in Ethiopia after 17yrs

Mohammad Morsi, President of Egypt/Photo/ReutersEgypt's new Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammad Morsi will attend this weekend's African Union (AU) Commission summit in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.

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AU proposes $ 278 m budget for summit

The major part of AU's budget is covered by its partners/photo/ReutersThe African Union (AU) Commission has budgeted $ 278.2 million for this week's Heads of State and government summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, representing a 1.5 percent increase from last year.

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African leaders to elect new AU chairperson

Dlamini Zuma and Jean PingAfrican leaders will for the second time attempt to elect a new African Union (AU) Commission chairperson when they meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week.

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Ethiopia to hold AU summit after Sudan-Malawi row?

The ICC issued out an international arrest warrant against Bashir in 2009 for genocide and crimes against humanity in DarfurThe African Union (AU) Commission is scampering around looking for a host for the July AU summit after Malawi decided against hosting it last week.

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The African Union deploys observer mission in Lesotho

Map of LesothoThe African union (AU) Commission has deployed a 20 member electoral observer mission (EOM) to Lesotho to monitor national assembly elections on Saturday.

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AU urges Sudans to 'unconditionally' resume negotiations

Sudanese air strikes hit South Sudanese targets earlier this week killing several civilians and causing extensive damage to a UN peacekeeping camp in Unity State in South Sudan/Photo/ReutersThe Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) Commission on Tuesday ordered both Sudans to resume negotiations.

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AU backs Nigerian minister, Ngozi for World Bank

Okonjo-Iweala spent more than two decades in the World Bank, rising through the ranks to the top management level as managing director/Photo/ReutersThe African Union (AU) Commission on Tuesday threw its weight behind Nigerian Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's bid for the World Bank's vice presidency saying has a good track record as a development professional.

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ECOWAS brushes aside Boko Haram criticism

Map of West AfricaThe Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission has dismissed accusations that it has failed to maintain regional stability in the face of escalating attacks by Nigeria's terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

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AU names Africa's best and worst

All 53 AU member states have ratified the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (1981)The African Union (AU) Commission on Sunday declared six of its member states as the "worst performing Governments" for not ratifying various treaties, protocols, and conventions.

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Dlamini-Zuma to battle Ping for a hidden agenda?

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (left) Jean Ping (right)With less than two weeks away from the all-important African Union (AU) summit, which is set to decide on who will chair the commission, South Africans are throwing

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Libya and AU: Renewing ties

Jean Ping, AU chairman, has since given the new Libyan cabinet his backing and committed to opening a new liaison office in Tripoli/Photo/ReutersThe African Union and the new Libyan government are en route to renewing formal ties after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, but it is not clear what role the union will be playing

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The African Union sends an observer mission to Tunisia

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission is deploying an election observation mission to Tunisia to supervise the Constituent Assembly elections scheduled to be held on the 23rd of October, 2011.

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AU Commissioner for Infrastructure: Infrastructure is a building block for unity


At a continental level, the African Union Commission’s priorities for infrastructure development include transportation, water, communications, ICT and energy. The most recent AU Summit was dedicated to transport and energy, but the previous summit’s theme was water and sanitation. The next will focus on ICT.?


Naturally, the AU is mainly concentrating on continental and regional programmes, but that does not mean that we are not also taking care of national ones. If you think about it, any continental plan consists of regional projects. And what are regional projects? They are composed of schemes which are implemented at a national level. There is, therefore, no contradiction between the national and the continental. We want to ensure that when our member states are putting together their national plans that they consider how these will fit into regional and continental strategies. It is here that the AU has a big role to play.?


In order to implement successfully any regional or continental project, policies, strategies, regulations and standards should be harmonised. This is one of the major tasks of the African Union Commission. We can also help to coordinate the different initiatives. An important part of this is the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the objective of which is to work out a plan of action for improving infrastructure on the continent, with a view to having a single African vision.


??At the moment each of the regional economic communities (RECs) has its own plans and projects. And yes, some of them are doing well, but they are doing it separately. Through PIDA, we are looking to integrate all their efforts and put them together in one programme: a master plan for Africa. ?


PIDA will harmonise work, preventing any duplication of effort and any wasting of money. PIDA will set policies, strategies and priorities, and it will establish a mechanism which will monitor and guarantee the implementation of infrastructure programmes. We have to do this in conjunction with our development partners. There is also a role to be played by the RECs. There is also a role for the African Development Bank and for the Economic Commission for Africa. We need to work together hand in hand to implement this continental programme.?


We also need to recognise that the current global financial crisis is having an impact on infrastructure development and that we will have to look for the appropriate solutions in order to overcome these difficulties. Currently, funding for infrastructure programmes comes from a mix of public and private sources, but given what is happening in the world today we should be looking for alternatives. We should open our doors to trade between African countries and strengthen cooperation between the regions. In this way we can anchor the financing of some of our projects. ?


We should also allow the private sector to be more involved in these projects. This implies that we need to establish favourable conditions for investment. We should give the private sector the confidence and the assurance that will allow it to contribute and to be involved. It is true that the private sector is doing well in some regions, but we cannot rely only on private investment. We also need to strengthen public-private partnerships. ?


All the regions have made a start and the AU should help to coordinate their efforts. There is no discrimination between the regions: all of them are African regions. But we are looking to those regions which are doing well to help and support the others. ?


To have a ‘United States of Africa’ means to have an integrated infrastructure. What we are doing to integrate infrastructure development is a basic element of building integration in other areas. The physical integration of the continent by roads and through energy is the engine for the development of Africa as a whole. We would hope that by 2020 we would have hydropower resources economically exploited, electrical networks, gas and oil pipelines regionally and inter-regionally connected, and to have roads linking African capitals. So we are working together, developing our continent and building our infrastructure which will support our United States of Africa.


The crescent of crisis faces a critical year


As Liberia and Sierra Leone attempt to overcome the impacts of years of civil war, the military coup in Guinea shows that peace and stability are yet to reign in this part of Africa


The putsch by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and his military allies in Guinea on 23 December has propelled leaders into emergency summits to hammer out a response to this latest crisis in one of Africa’s most war-torn regions. Both the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union condemned the coup on principle, but some leaders want Camara’s regime to be recognised.?


Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade said of Camara: “The Captain told me he will go back to barracks…he does not have the capacity to keep power,” then he added that the putschists “deserved to be supported. We will not throw stones at them.”

Conakry against the world


Guinea's popular putsch.
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?Libya’s President Muammar Gadaffi is also urging African support for Camara’s junta, having held meetings with Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.?


Liberia talks about “constructive engagement” – but emphatically not “support” – as a way of helping Capt. Camara’s regime return the country to constitutional rule. It worries that the putsch could trigger a new round of instability in a region still devastated by conflict.?


The big question is how the putsch will affect regional stability. “The threat to our countries has diminished but it’s not over,” Liberia’s President Sirleaf told The Africa Report, and she added “Our regional war was not ethnic, religious or political – it was an economic war fuelled by criminal interests. We have to be very careful not to lose the momentum of change.”


?The governments in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which have both come to power through credible multiparty elections, are trying to jumpstart their economies into life to counter growing social discontent. ?


For much of the 1990s and the first half of this decade, a crescent of countries stretching from Guinea-Bissau in the west to Côte d’Ivoire in the east was engulfed either in deep political crisis or in devastating civil wars.?


Rebel militias recruited alienated youth along the crescent promising to overthrow corrupt and oppressive regimes; those that seized the reins of power were far worse than their predecessors. Carpet-bagging companies and mercenaries of all stripes rushed in to pillage diamonds, gold, rutile, bauxite, iron ore and hardwoods. ?


The sheer horror of these wars – press-ganged youth militias amputating arms and legs, and committing mass rapes – and a death toll of over 100,000 eventually compelled the international system to act. The UN committed more than 50,000 peacekeepers to the region, but it is now gradually winding down its presence.


?Britain, the EU, US and World Bank sent in the economists and the sociologists, turning the region into something of a laboratory. Britain had some success with security reform, focusing attention on rebuilding police services and armed forces after the prolonged civil wars. They financed the demobilisation of militias and training programmes for the new model armies that were meant to emerge in Sierra Leone and Liberia. ?


Then the militia recruits picked up their $100 demob grants, along with a few farming tools, and tried to join the new post-war social order. However, unemployment rates are still running around 50%.?


“The key is jobs,” said President Sirleaf, “unemployed youth are vulnerable to recruitment by any groups – that risk increases if you don’t get the mines and plantations working again.”?


Liberia has had some successes: the world’s largest steelmaker Arcelor Mittal is spending $1.5bn on an iron ore mining and railway project in north-eastern Liberia and in December, China Union announced that it would invest $2.5bn to rehabilite the Bong iron ore mines, to build a hydro-power plant to supply the capital and to renovate the capital’s port. And after three years of negotiations, Liberia has finally secured some relief on its more than $1bn of foreign debt.

 West Africa map

?President Sirleaf remains a highly effective ambassador for her country but alongside those economic successes have come accusations of corruption against senior government officials.


?On 7 January a special commission chaired by US-based Liberian Professor Elwood Dunn delivered its detailed report on claims that some Monrovia officials had solicited bribes from the Israeli businessman, Yoram Cohen, who runs the Liberian International Shipping & Corporate Registry.


?Investment has been slower to come to Sierra Leone, although President Koroma has adopted the same free-market policies as Liberia’s Sirleaf. Koroma promises to run government “like a business” and has ordered all his ministers and senior civil servants to sign performance contracts. He talks about a “social contract” under which government supplies services such as electricity and water, and responsible citizens pay for them. ?


But so far Koroma’s biggest impact has been his backing for the establishment of a new Anti-Corruption Commission. Headed by the energetic lawyer Abdul Tejan Cole, the Commission can initiate prosecutions independently of the attorney general. The new act has created several more offences such as corrupt enrichment, abuse and misuse of office, while providing protection for whistleblowers.


?The new anti-corruption act makes it compulsory for public officers to declare their assets. Koroma said he was one of the first officers to do so. When asked if he would make the declaration public, he said that was up to the commission. “If something’s happening with a public officer’s income, the Anti-Corruption Commission has all the sworn declarations of assets, so they can start an investigation.”?


With just 100 staff and shortages of computers, Tejan Cole is pleased with the Commission’s progress so far. It is supervising some 20,000 declarations of assets and has completed investigations into an over-priced electrification contract and the landing of 700kg of cocaine at Freetown international airport. At least, when Sierra Leone does start to attract the big ticket investment it will have the means to monitor how much of the new money is going astray.

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