The African Union held the 16th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government under the theme: "Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values", in Addis Ababa, on Sunday and Monday this week, January 30th and 31st.  The Summit elected Mr. Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea as Chairperson of the African Union for 2011. French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and UN General Assembly President, Joseph Deiss, were among the guests of honor at the Summit.  Preceded and accompanied by a series of associated meetings, including Summits of NEPAD and of the African Peer Review Mechanism, the African Union Summit considered issues ranging from the peace and security situation of the continent to Africa's partnerships with the rest of the international community and its participation in international fora, including the United Nations, the G8 and the G20. It concluded its successful two days of discussions and debate by adopting a number of decisions and declarations.

President John Atta-Mills of Ghana presented the overall theme of the Summit, while representatives of the five regional areas of the continent complemented his presentation.  During the consultation on the challenges and obstacles on the Shared Values of the African Union, the Heads of State and Government deliberated on how governance and democracy could further accelerate integration and provide a solid foundation for building a prosperous Africa.  Following their discussion the Heads of State adopted a declaration committing them to enhance their ownership of Shared Values and requesting the African Union Commission to strengthen the African Governance Architecture to facilitate the harmonization of instruments and coordination of initiatives in governance and democracy.

The discussion on Peace and Security issues revolved around the activity report presented by the Chairperson of the Commission, Dr. Jean Ping. His presentation briefed the Council on the Commission's activity on conflict situations in Africa including Cote d'Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan, the impasse between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the conflict situation between Djibouti and Eritrea. The Eritrean Ambassador in what appeared to be a carefully prepared text made almost identical statements to the PRC, to the Council and to the Summit, on Eritrea's policies towards Somalia, Djibouti and on how Eritrea saw the current situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea as improving slightly. As some of his comments were in contradiction with the Constitutive Act, the Commission was obliged to provide some corrections. In addition, the Eritrean Ambassador was also requested to respect the views of others if he wanted his own to be respected. Eritrea, of course, has only returned this year to the AU after a long self-imposed refusal to participate in the organization after the AU refused to accept its particular views on Somalia.

The Ethiopian delegation responded to the misrepresentations of the Eritrean ambassador at the PRC, Council and Summit level, detailing errors in the Eritrean statement, and emphasizing that Eritrea hadn’t ceased its efforts to disrupt the region, continuing the training and infiltration of terrorists into Ethiopian territory. It did, however, note that if indeed Eritrea wanted to be part of the development of the region as the Eritrean Ambassador had claimed, then the move would be welcomed by Ethiopia as long as Eritrea was willing to address its attitudinal problem and started to think “outside the box” of its current preoccupations.

The 24th session of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Orientation Committee was convened on January 29th on the eve of the African Union Summit, to consider the bi-annual Activity Report of NEPAD’s Planning and Coordination Agency (NCPA) for July-December 2010 and the outlook for 2011, the progress report of the High-Level Sub-Committee on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, Africa's partnership engagements and the governance structure of NEPAD. The Committee endorsed the activities and priorities outlined in the NCPA Activity Report. It took particular note of the efforts at results-based performance and progress in strategic planning, knowledge management, policy alignment, program implementation and coordination, partnerships, resource mobilization, increased Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program Compact signing, and access to agricultural funding. The Committee commended the work done and the progress so far recorded by the High-Level Sub- Committee of eight countries on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative with South Africa as chair. It endorsed the criteria and prioritized projects and champions selected for implementation covering the AU’s five regions.  The selection of the priority projects is based, among others, on the criteria of high impact and effectiveness, capacity to unlock economic potential of a particular region and country, support for long-term development and integration of the continent.

The Committee underscored the essential need for Africa to consolidate its partnership engagements with the G8 and G20. It welcomed the outcome of the November 2010 G20 Summit in South Korea and the concrete steps taken by the G20 Working Group on Development co-chaired by South Africa and South Korea. It noted the G20 Seoul Development Consensus on Shared Growth as consistent with NEPAD priority objectives, and its Multi-year Action Plan on Development including the G20 High-Level Panel for Infrastructure Investments. The Seoul Consensus constitutes a major departure in the development thinking as it considers Africa as part of the global agenda and not merely peripheral. Indeed, it puts Africa at the center of global debate and views Africa as part of a global solution to current problems. It was emphasized that regional and multilateral development banks need to align their policy and operational interventions to the Seoul Consensus. Africa needs to constructively interact with the G20 Panel towards utilizing global excess savings for investment in Africa's infrastructure sector. The African Union Commission and the NCPA have been requested to galvanize African efforts to this end.

Another meeting the same day was the 14th Summit of the Committee of Participating Heads of State and Government of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APR Forum) held on January 29th in Addis Ababa. Its agenda included: the conduct of the Peer Review of Ethiopia and the conduct of the Peer Review of Progress Reports of the Implementation of the National Program of Action of Reviewed Countries (South Africa, Nigeria and Lesotho). During the Peer Review of Ethiopia it was indicated that the report suffered from both factual errors and a faulty approach. While noting that some of the factual errors had been corrected, Ethiopia nonetheless suggested that the report’s comments on political and economic developments in Ethiopia appeared to have been made on the basis of a narrow ideological orientation to which the country itself did not subscribe. Ethiopia said there had always been an understanding, indeed a decision on the part of former chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons, Adebaye Adedeje, that the reviews should be based on the ideology followed by the country under review. Ethiopia said that this determination had not been heeded. Similar mistakes had been made in the reports on Rwanda and South Africa. The points were taken note of by the new Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons who agreed that the council should look into the need for the indigenization of the review reports.

Meanwhile, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) will fall in May 2013. Ethiopia proposed that the anniversary should be celebrated in Addis Ababa as the site of the original OAU conference. The Summit decided that the anniversary should be celebrated appropriately in Addis Ababa on 25 May 2013 and it requested the African Union Commission to make the necessary arrangements for the celebration, in close collaboration with the host country, Ethiopia and all Member States, and to submit progress reports to the Assembly on a regular basis.