More than 25 African leaders are in Addis Ababa for a two-day summit focusing mainly on political and security concerns.
The 16th gathering of African Union heads of state and government features mini-summits on Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia. Several other hotspots, such as Niger and Madagascar, are up for discussion.
But AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping says the two latest crises, in Egypt and Tunisia erupted too late to be included in his report to the summit.
“Every of these crisis are in my report with full details, but the question of Tunisia is not there because the crisis in Tunisia came after I published my report,” he said. “Egypt is the same thing, noting is in my report which I submitted to heads of state. Nothing on Tunisia, nothing on Egypt.”
In the hallways around pre-summit meetings, people crowd around TV sets and computer screens to see the latest news from Egypt and Tunisia. Observer Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch likened the atmosphere to the last days of the Soviet empire.
“Thoughout Africa what we have seen in recent days in Tunisia and Egypt is very encouraging,” he said. “It’s as if a Berlin Wall is falling in North Africa.”
In a pre-summit session, AU foreign ministers endorsed Kenya’s move to block International Criminal Court indictments of six alleged masterminds of ethnic violence after the country’s disputed 2007 election. The heads of state are expected to do the same in their final communiqué.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the summit, Ping accused International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of double standards in targeting Africans for trial in The Hague. He said the prosecutions had undermined Kenyan support for the ICC.
“Kenya has been a big supporter of ICC, they are a member of ICC, and then they saw Ocampo there in Kenya, going to TV, saying that we’ll take Kenya has an example in the world. Why Kenya? Why not your country Argentina? Why not Sri Lanka? Iraq? Gaza? He wants to take Kenya as an example,” he said. “So the Kenyans themselves who have been a strong supporter of ICC have been questioning, why Kenya? Why have we been taken as an example of ICC?”
Ping said AU leaders are considering establishment of a continental criminal court to prosecute Africans accused of grave political crimes.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Addis Ababa Saturday to co-chair two special mini-summits, one on the Ivory Coast, the other on Sudan.
The summit is expected to give a fresh push to diplomatic efforts to break Ivory Coast’s political stalemate. A panel of five heads of state is to be named Sunday to a settle the dispute between incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara, who was initially declared the winner of the November 28 presidential runoff election.