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AU leaders prepare to tackle continent's crises

posted 29 Jan 2011, 17:50 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 29 Jan 2011, 18:36 ]

The African Union says it will be discussing the political crises in Egypt, Tunisia and Ivory Coast during a two-day summit meeting.

The African Union said on Saturday (January 29) that Ivory Coast and Tunisia would be high on the agenda during an upcoming summit meeting but that the situation in Egypt was of particular concern.

Addressing a news conference in Addis Ababa on the eve of the summit, AU chairman Jean Ping said the Union was monitoring developments closely.

"We are preoccupied, taking into account what happened in the past, we are preoccupied and we have to follow closely the situation in this country. But you see, we cannot go in every country to do, you know, the job of the country. A country remains a sovereign country, but if you have a crisis, then, you know, we are concerned and we have to give our opinion and to take actions," he said.

Ping was speaking to journalists on the eve of a two-day heads-of-state summit set for 30 - 31 January in the Ethiopian capital.

He also said the Union wanted to see elections organised in Tunisia as soon as possible, following the departure of former leader Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali.

"The hope we have concerning the crisis in Tunisia is that the transitional period should be as short as possible, to go to elections, to ask the population, to choose themselves freely, in a transparent way, democratically, their rulers. That is our preoccupation," said Ping.

On the situation in Ivory Coast, Ping said the AU's decision to push for a negotiated settlement was taken after a proposal to threaten military intervention caused a divide among member states.

Ivory Coast has been paralysed by a power struggle stand-off following a November election. U.N.-certified results showed that opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara won but they were overturned by a top legal body and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has resisted calls to step down.

The African Union said on Friday it would form a panel of heads of state to solve the leadership crisis in Ivory Coast which would come up with a legally binding settlement within one month.

"If you use force today, it will be a chaos and killings. So, we are going to use all the means to arrive to the same result, preserve democracy. I am confident that we will succeed more than the use of force," said Ping.

Ping also insisted that the African Union was not against the International Criminal Court, but said the bloc was not pleased with the conduct of the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo.

"Thirty of our members are members of ICC, we are not against ICC, we are against the way Ocampo is running justice, the justice of a man. That's what...with double standards, you know, coming to investigate here and not there," he said.

The ICC has issued a warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's arrest for war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region but the AU has told its members not to cooperate with the Court over the matter.

The Union has accused the ICC of ignoring situations in other countries and instead focusing on leaders and officials in Africa.