Speaking at the opening ceremony, both the AU and African Union Commission Chairpersons Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma respectively called for urgent concerted efforts to find solutions to the crises in South Sudan and CAR.
Desalegn said although under his chairmanship AU made strides, serious setbacks have set in. “I am deeply concerned by the emergence of new conflicts which, if not addressed urgently, will have a potential to seriously threaten our collective peace and security and undermine the gains that we have made in recent years,” said Desalegn.
He called for urgent solutions if the emerging security risks in the continent are to be contained.
“Failure to do so will have serious implications for peace and security in the region and indeed the whole continent. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to help these two fragile African States in restoring peace and stability and addressing their internal challenges.”
According to the AU chairman, both the South Sudanese protagonists should know that the problem cannot be resolved through the barrel of the gun but they should be fully committed to sit at negotiating table without any preconditions so as to find a political settlement to the crisis.
He remarked: “We all know that this new African State (S.Sudan) has made tremendous sacrifices to gain its independence and the South Sudanese political actors should rise to the occasion and avoid the country from falling into the precipice.”
He urges government and anti-government factions to demonstrate the necessary political leadership and compromise to achieve peace and durable reconciliation.
Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, also in her opening speech said. “As we start the year, our hearts go out to the people of CAR and South Sudan that face the devastation of the conflicts especially women and children who are the main victims of these conflicts.”
She called for collective responsibility to ensure lasting peace and security in these countries, as part of efforts to silence the guns on the continent.
She announced the appointment of an AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, Mrs. Binta Diop, to ensure that the voices of women and the vulnerable are heard much more clearly in peace building and in conflict resolution.
Since the unrest began mid-last month between the armed loyalists of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, at least 1000 people have been killed and about 700,000 others have been displaced and in dire need of relief assistance.