AU Commission describes 2016- “a particularly fruitful year”

In her last New Year message, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission suggested the last year had been particularly fruitful for the African Union Commission as it continued to work at the implementation of the first 10-year plan for Africa's Agenda 2063.  She accepted that a lot more work still needed to be done to translate aspirations to make difference in the lives of Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, but she was pleased to see AU Member States and Regional Economic Communities intensify Agenda 2063 domestication. Dr. Zuma noted that the aim of free movement of people around Africa received a significant boost in 2016. She commended Ghana, Namibia, Benin and Togo for the steps they had taken towards joining Rwanda, Mauritius and Seychelles with visa-free-entry for all Africans. She hoped many more countries would follow suit with visa-on-arrival as the AU considered issuing the African Passport.

The Commission Chairperson said the 27th AU Summit of Heads of States and Government, hosted by Rwanda, was "the best we have held", adding "we must maintain the focus on issues of common interest, while striving to get better in hosting subsequent Summits and meetings." She said the Kigali Summit was especially successful with the launch of the African Passport, decisions on Financing the AU through a 0.2% import Levy; the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the appointment of Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. She also
noted that the Kigali Summit had tasked President Kagame of Rwanda to lead reform of the African Union. Dr. Zuma said a reformed African Union and a re-structured Commission would better position the African Union to deliver Agenda 2063 in the most efficient and relevant way to meet African aspirations.

Dr. Zuma said that the AU Summits in 2016, held under the theme "African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women", marked important milestones for both Africa and   the global women's agenda for gender equality and women empowerment. The 2017 Summits would be held under the theme of "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investment in Youth." She emphasized that the youth constituted over 70% of the population of Africa and were "a critical part of our most precious resources". She said the AU Commission looked forward to working with Regional Economic Communities, Civil Society, AU Organs, Member States and all partners in furthering the youth agenda.

She noted the AU Commission was heading an End Child Marriage Campaign, and the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security had embarked on a Stop Violence against Women in South Sudan Campaign in response to the violent atrocities committed against women and children in South Sudan. In this context, Dr, Zuma also underlined that Africa and the world could not stand by and witness the suffering inflicted on the children, women, men and young people of South Sudan. Enough is enough, she said: "Africans deserve better, and we must all work towards better days, and towards peace, stability and development, not only in South Sudan, but also in Burundi, Central African Republic, The Gambia and others. Our people deserve peace and development." She added that governments and leaders were there to protect the vulnerable, to serve the people; not to be the cause of the people's suffering and retrogression. She said: "The AU remains committed to work with our Member States to ensure that lasting peace is restored under the Agenda 2063 flagship project "Silencing the Guns by 2020."

Dr. Zuma said successful elections were held in a number of Member States, and she congratulated the peoples and governments for ensuring smooth transitions, and moving a step further towards realizing the spirit and letter of the African Charter on Elections, Governance and Democracy. She urged Member States with electoral disputes to respect the will of the people, abide by their national and international obligations, and use non-violent and legal means in resolving any electoral disputes.

Dr. Zuma also pointed out that at the 28th Summit, to be held in Addis Ababa at the end of this month, the Heads of State and Government would elect a new Chairperson for the AU Commission. For the first time, five candidates had participated in a live televised debate, the MjadalaAfrika. It had been organised by the AU Leadership Academy on December 9 and had given the people of Africa an opportunity to hear the plans of candidates for the post of Chairperson.  This debate was unprecedented and a milestone in the history of the African Union. Dr. Zuma hoped there would be more debates of this nature on other critical issues, including employment, economy, migration and many more. In conclusion, Dr. Zuma thanked the staff, management and friends of the AU Commission for their continued support towards realization of a prosperous and peaceful Africa, and wished everyone good health, peace and prosperity in 2017.

…New UN Secretary-General calls for 2017 to be "A Year of Peace"

On his first day as Secretary-General of the United Nations, on January 1st, 2017, the new Secretary-General, António Guterres, pledged to make 2017 a year for peace. In an appeal for peace in the world, he said:  "On this New Year's Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year's resolution: Let us resolve to put peace first." He said one question weighed particularly heavily on his heart. "That is: how can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?"  Urging all citizens, governments and leaders to strive to overcome differences, he said "Peace must be our goal and our guide," adding "I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day. Let us make 2017 a year for peace." Mr. Guterres, formally appointed Secretary-General by the UN General Assembly on October 13, last year, will now serve as Secretary-General for a five-year period to 31 December 2021. He was previously Prime Minister of Portugal (1995 to 2002,) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2005 to 2015).