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Africa’s leaders meet to tackle humanitarian, political crises

AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. File picture: Chen Cheng/Xinhua

AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. File picture: Chen Cheng/Xinhua

Published May 28, 2022

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AU leaders gathered in Equatorial Guinea on Friday for two summits as the continent contends with humanitarian crises, terrorism and military coups.

Heads of state as well as donors assembled in the capital, Malabo, to raise funds at the AU’s first “extraordinary humanitarian summit”. According to AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, 113 million Africans need urgent humanitarian assistance this year, including 48 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people.

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In a statement, the AU said that 15 particularly hard-hit countries required urgent aid, with climate shocks and conflicts causing humanitarian needs to increase “exponentially”.

Of the more than 30 million internally displaced Africans, it said, more than 10 million were children under the age of 15, pointing to inter-ethnic conflict in certain regions and food insecurity.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says about 282 million of Africa’s 1.4 billion inhabitants are under-fed – an increase of 49 million on 2019 levels.

A second meeting today will tackle “terrorism and unconstitutional changes” as rebellions and jihadist insurgencies plague Libya, Mozambique, Somalia, the Sahel region, West Africa’s Lake Chad basin and the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mahamat called terrorism a “cancer” progressively infecting the whole continent with painful economic and security consequences. Military coups in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Burkina Faso in the past two years have seen the army oust elected leaders and set lengthy or no timetables for a return to civilian rule.

The moves have sparked condemnation and sanctions from regional bodies, the EU and Western capitals, with the AU suspending the four countries until power is handed back to civilians. AU chief Mahamat said the coups marked a “regression” in the democratic process that countries had been undertaking for two decades.

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He called the transition periods put in place by military juntas “sources of dissension and occasionally of tension” unconducive to the stability of those states or their neighbours.

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