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18th AU summit opens in Ethiopia

posted 23 Jan 2012, 06:34 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 23 Jan 2012, 06:34 ]

The African Union summit opens in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa this week, with the worsening security situation in several African nations including Somalia, South Sudan and Mali likely to top the agenda.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (JANUARY 23, 2011) (REUTERS) - African policy makers met for the start of another African Union (AU) session in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa on Monday (January 23).

The eighteenth AU summit was opened with a session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), a meeting for ambassadors and advisors to discuss new and existing policy on trade.

Chairman to the AU commission Jean Ping, opened proceedings by saying it had been a challenging year for Africa.

"I have to say it has been a difficult year, particularly in the area of peace and security. The ship of Africa has been through many storms from all over the continent. But I believe that despite the difficulties, the humiliations and the marginalisation, Africa stood the test and has been adhering to its principles," he said, adding that the continent is heading into unknown political territory.

"Therefore, with the changes that have taken place in Tunisia and Egypt, which have marked a new way forward in the process first started in the 1990s, not only has the African Union supported these movements, it has also demonstrated creativity and flexibility," Ping said.

On the summit's theme, "boosting intra-African trade", Joseph Nsengimana , chair of the PRC said the emphasis should be on integrating African trade and industry.

"Especially the theme of the Summit, boosting the Intra Africa trade, many sartorial ministerial meetings, the feeder programmes, the development agenda for the continent and fast tracking of the socio-economic and cultural integration of our continent," he said.

Monday's meetings will be followed by high level talks between key African leaders. Security is likely to top the agenda, particularly in relation to the ongoing situation in Somalia, conflict in the border areas of Sudan and South Sudan, Nigeria's recent bombings and the rise of extremism and spate of kidnappings in Mali.

The summit runs until January 30.