African leaders to discuss crisis

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zuma march 17 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS [File photo] President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cotonou - African leaders met in Benin's capital Cotonou on Saturday to try to make progress in resolving the African Union (AU) leadership crisis, following deadlocked elections at a January summit.

With the 54-nation organisation increasingly adrift since splitting over whether to re-elect Gabonese Jean Ping as head of the AU Commission or giving the post to South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the aim was to build consensus ahead of another vote expected in July.

“After the deadlock during the summit they established this ad-hoc committee to look into this issue of the election and to come out with some recommendations,” AU Commission spokesman Noureddine Mezni told AFP.

Saturday's meeting gathered a leader from each of Africa's five main regions, with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia representing north Africa and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara west Africa.

East Africa was represented by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, central Africa by Chad's President Idris Deby Itno and southern Africa by Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti.

President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, the current chair of the AU, was also in attendance, along with his counterparts from South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, as well as Ping.

“We are meeting as part of our joint mission which is to reflect on a solution to the deadlock,” Yaya said at the beginning of the closed-door meeting.

Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa's former foreign minister and Zuma's ex-wife, who was backed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states, is running again in the July vote.

Ping, who was backed by francophone states, has not confirmed whether he will re-enter the race.

Gabon's former foreign affairs minister and minister of information, Ping has been the chairman of the AU Commission since 2008.

He is serving in an interim capacity until the next AU summit slated to take place in Malawi in July.

A diplomatic source said the AU has been frozen since the deadlocked elections, which does not bode well for the organisation's image or decision-making power. - Sapa-AFP


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