Controversy surrounding the future chairperson of the Afican Union (AU) through 2007 is likely to dominate the eighth summit of the African Union (AU) which opened in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday under the themes 'Science, Technology and Scientific Research for Development' and 'Climate change in Africa'. Although candidates for the AU chair, due to be elected on Monday 29 January, have not been confirmed, Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, is expected to be elected to the position. Khartoum hosted the summit in January 2006 and, as the only candidate for the chair, was expected to be elected to the position for one year. However, amid ongoing conflict in Darfur, and under pressure from governments and human rights groups, the AU took the unprecedented step of postponing Sudan's candidacy. Instead, Congo-Brazzaville was appointed to chair the AU in 2006, and it was agreed that Sudan would succeed as head of the AU in January 2007.
In 2007, non-governmental organisations have again expressed concern at Sudan's expected chairmanship of the regional body. In a letter to the heads of 53 African countries expected to attend the summit, Waging Peace warned that should Sudan be elected to the chair, 'the impartiality and integrity of the African Union will be seriously threatened [and that] by allowing Sudan to chair the AU, the organisation would be seen as condoning the Sudanese government's genocidal campaign in Darfur'. In a statement expressing alarm at Sudan's ambition to assume AU chairmanship, Trócaire said that, considering the Sudanese government's complicity in worsening human rights violations in the country's Darfur region, 'it is critical that Sudan be denied the privilege of chairing the AU in 2007'.
According to Trócaire, 'Sudan's chairmanship of the AU would make the already complex task of resolving the Darfur crisis even more complicated, as the AU peacekeeping force would no longer be perceived as impartial'.
More www.wagingpeace.info, www.trocaire.org
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