African leaders address Covid and security issues at virtual virtual summit

African leaders will open a two-day virtual summit on Saturday to discuss the continent’s Covid-19 response and security issues that have been overlooked during the pandemic.

The African Union summit comes almost exactly one year after Egypt registered the first case of Covid-19 in Africa, which led to great concern that the Member States’ weak health systems would be quickly overwhelmed.

But despite early doomsday forecasts, the continent has so far been less severely affected than other regions, registering 3.5 percent of global virus cases and 4 percent of global deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

But today, many African countries are struggling to harm other waves as they strive to obtain adequate vaccine doses.

African leaders oppose the storage of rich countries at the expense of the poorer.

“Vaccine nationalism is growing, with other rich countries jumping in line, some even pre-ordering more than they need,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the AU’s executive body, the African Union Commission, in a new interview. AU published online.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver an update on the pandemic response during the closed part of the summit on Saturday, according to a draft program that AFP has seen.

Vaccine funding is also expected to be discussed, CDC Director of Africa John Nkengasong told a news conference this week.

Elections and crises

Separately, Member States will hold internal elections to lead the restructured Commission – the results of which will shape the AU’s response to the pandemic and a host of economic and security challenges.

Faki, a former prime minister of Chad, inadvertently runs for a second four-year term as commissioner.

He still needs to get two – thirds of the vote and overcome the accusations – which he denies – of “a culture of sexual harassment, bribery, corruption and bullying within the Commission”, the International Crisis Group wrote in a recent review.

In another race, Nigerian Bankole Adeoye benefits as head of the AU’s recently merged political affairs and peace and security departments, diplomats say, although the AU regulates the distribution of top positions in Africa’s sub-regions could lead to a surprising result.

The winner can play a critical role, together with Faki, in dealing with crises that AU is accused of overlooking.

There are several internal conflicts that AU has done little to resolve.

Its Peace and Security Council has failed to hold meetings on the conflict between government forces and Anglophonist separatists in Cameroon, for example, as has the growing Islamist militant in Mozambique.

A three-month-old conflict in the AU’s host country Ethiopia, which pitted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against the former ruling party in the northern Tigray region, has proved particularly sensitive.

Abiy has rejected appeals from high-level AU envoys for talks with Tigrayan leaders and maintained his line that the conflict is a limited “law and order” operation.

This weekend’s summit comes when the new US President Joe Biden promises to re-engage with multilateral institutions such as the African Union.

In a video released on Friday, Biden said his administration would engage in “sustained diplomacy, in the context of the African Union, to address conflicts that cost lives across the African continent.”

(AFP)