African Union Commission chairwoman Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses delegates during the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute gala dinner. File picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media

Johannesburg – The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has released her new year’s message, praising progress in implementing the continent’s Agenda 2063 plan but also singling out problem states such as Burundi and South Sudan.

“The year 2016 has been particularly fruitful for the African Union Commission as it continues to work hard at the implementation of the first 10-year plan of Africa’s Agenda 2063,” said Dlamini-Zuma from Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

“We are very pleased to see AU Member States and Regional Economic Communities intensify Agenda 2063 domestication. Certainly, a lot more work still needs to be done, to translate these aspirations to make a difference in the lives of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.”

Our aspiration of free movement of people around the continent received a significant boost in 2016. We, again commend Ghana, Namibia, Benin and Togo that took steps toward joining Rwanda, Mauritius and Seychelles on visa-free-entry for all Africans.

We hope in 2017, many more countries will follow suit with visa-on-arrival as we consider issuing the African Passport to citizens, within their national policies.

Dlamini-Zuma said the 27th AU Summit of Heads of States and Government, hosted by Rwanda, was the best the AU had held and added “we must maintain the focus on issues of our common interest, while striving to get better in hosting subsequent Summits and meetings”.

The Kigali Summit was especially successful with the launch of the African Passport, decisions on Financing the AU through a 0.2% import Levy on eligible goods, Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the appointment of Judges of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights she said.

The Kigali Summit also tasked President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to lead the reform of the African Union. A reformed African Union and a re-structured Commission would better place the continental body to deliver Agenda 2063 in a very efficient and relevant way, meeting the aspirations of Africans.

Held under the theme, “African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”, 2016 marked important milestones in the continental and global women’s agenda for gender equality and women empowerment.

“As we begin 2017, the theme is Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investment in Youth. The youth constitute over 70% of the African Population and remain a critical part of our most precious resources. We look forward to working with Regional Economic Communities, Civil Society, AU Organs, Member States and all partners in furthering the youth agenda.”

She said that in keeping true to the theme, the AU Commission was heading a focused End Child Marriage Campaign so as to ensure that the girl child is not diverted from attending school.

The Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security also embarked on a Stop Violence against Women in South Sudan Campaign in response to the violent atrocities committed against women and children in South Sudan in the background of conflict.

“We have repeatedly stated that Africa and the world cannot stand by and witness the suffering inflicted on the children, women, men and young people of South Sudan.

“Enough is enough. Africans deserve better, and we must all work towards better days, and towards peace, stability and development, not only in South Sudan, but also in Burundi, Central African Republic, The Gambia and others. Our people deserve peace and development,” she said.

“Our governments and leadership are there to protect the vulnerable, to serve the people; not to be the cause of the people’s suffering and retrogression.”

Dlamini-Zuma pointed to several successful elections which were held in Member States, and congratulated the peoples and governments for their commitment at each election, ensuring smooth transitions, and “moving a step further towards realising the spirit and letter of the African Charter on Elections, Governance and Democracy”.

“We urge Member States with electoral disputes to respect the will of the people, abide by their national and international obligations, as well as resort to all non-violent and legal means in resolving electoral disputes.”

She added that the AU remained committed to work with Member States to ensure that lasting peace was restored under Agenda 2063’s flagship project, Silencing the Guns, by 2020.

A new Chairperson of the AU Commission is set to be elected at the 28th Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this year.

African News Agency