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African Leaders Arrive in South Africa for AU Summit

FILE: South African President Jacob Zuma (L), Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (2nd L), Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane (C) and Botswana President Ian Khama (2nd R) stand for a group photo following an emergency meeting on the current situation in Lesotho.

President Robert Mugabe arrived in Johannesburg and is this weekend expected to join other African leaders in the city for the 25th assembly of heads of state and government of the African Union scheduled to take place from Sunday to Monday.

The Sandton Convention Centre is hosting the summit, which has been preceded by the 30th ordinary session of Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) on 7th June, 2015 and followed by the 27th executive council from 10 – 12 June, 2015, is being held under the theme: “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.

AU leaders want the Johannesburg summit to come up with a plan for the first 10 years of the implementation of Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 seeks a radical transformation of Africa’s growth and development trajectory with the goal of accelerating Africa’s convergence with the rest of world in all fields, including political, social, economic, and cultural among others.

A report from the AU secretariat, said more than 50 African heads of state were expected to arrive in South Africa on Friday, adding that Mr. Mugabe, was set to preside over the meeting as the AU chairman.

The leaders are expected to discuss conflicts in the region such as Burundi, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan. Behind closed doors they are also expected to discuss xenophobia, the global migration crisis and Africa’s rather strained relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Kenyan deputy president William Ruto’s case before the ICC was expected to form part of African Union heads of state summit agenda on Sunday.

International Crisis Group’s Southern Africa project director, Piers Pigou told VOA that the summit is significant for Africa. “It is an important one certainly in terms of the timing and the context in which these various challenges and opportunities are lying before us.”

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Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the summit, Amnesty International and other 12 civil society organizations said the AU should call on the South African authorities to provide a long-term security guarantee for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers living in the country.

Amnesty International's regional director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, said it time for Africa to take action.

“This is the moment for the AU to put pressure on the South African government to resolve the persistent occurrence of xenophobia in the country and ensure there is no impunity for the perpetrators. The AU must remind the government of its obligation to protect everyone living in its territory from violent attacks, regardless of their status. Xenophobic attacks must end.”

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In 2008, 62 people were killed and hundreds of thousands others left displaced in a spate of xenophobic attacks in the country. About 7 people were killed in similar attacks this year.

In a statement, various civic groups said African leaders must “hold each other to account for delivering on good governance and human rights and they are also accountable for protecting people within their borders.

“At this week’s African Union Summit, we are calling on the AU to help South Africa demonstrate its leadership in addressing xenophobia and protecting the rights of all, including refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers.”

In another related development, 40 year old U.S actress and director, Angelina Jolie, is also in South Africa where she attended a panel on conflict-related gender violence.

Jolie is the United Nations special envoy for refugees. She shared a panel with the African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former British Foreign Secretary William Hague and other prominent delegates.

Jolie said, “Progress is slow, it is uneven, it is fragile and in some parts of the world it is being erased … think what it would mean if the 54 nations of the African Union press as one toward full rights and opportunities for women, not just for this great continent but for the world.”