African leaders meet for ‘last push’ on AU reforms

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African leaders are expected to gather together this weekend for a special summit aimed at pushing through long-debated reforms to their pan-continental body.

Their main aim is to streamline and empower the African Union.

Egypt, which will assume the chairmanship of the AU early next year, has little interest in the reforms, they say.

The special summit will be held at the headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa this Saturday and Sunday at the insistence of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the pioneer of the reforms.

The talks have been described as a final attempt by head of African advocacy for the International Crisis Group (ICG) – Elissa Jobson to enact as many changes before Kagame’s one year-term as chairman expires in January.

“The concern is that Egypt will most likely push the reforms forward, even if it doesn’t try to reverse them,” she said.

The AU, that for a long time has been criticised for redundant bureaucracy and ineffectual decisions, put Kagame in charge of reforming the body in 2016.

His proposals include weaning the AU off foreign donor funding and cutting down on the number of summits and commissions. However, more than two years and five AU summits later, analysts say key states still are not on board with the reforms. Prospects for an agreement this week will depend on who turns up, they say.

“We’ll have to see how many heads of state come, and that will determine the success of the summit, (which) will determine the success of the reforms in any way,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a consultant with the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

So far South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Comoros, Togo and Ghana have confirmed they will be sending their presidents.

Countries like Nigeria and Mozambique will be sending foreign ministers, while other AU members have are yet to say who they will be represented by.

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