AU boss: 2011 worst year for Africa

Author: Madi Njie, credit Daily Observer, Gambia

The chairperson of the African Union Commission has described 2011 as the “worst year” for Africa given the current spate of crises that have plagued the continent.

Jean Ping, Gabonese-born diplomat who has been the chairperson of the AU Commission since 2008 was speaking to journalists in Banjul, Gambia shortly after holding talks with the president-elect of that country Yahya Jammeh.

The soft-spoken diplomat was in the country to among other things discuss with the Gambian leader Monday’s abortive coup in Guinea Bissau.

Ping said taking into account the situation which is prevailing in the region, mainly the situation in Guinea Bissau, it is very useful for him to seek advice from President Jammeh whom he said knows very well the situation in the sub-region.

“I was very happy with the advice the president gave me about the analysis of the situation which he knows perfectly well. I am going to send some of our technicians again in the sub-region to continue to seek advice and to have the wise ideas coming from the president for the sub-region,” the African Union chief, who was on his way from Guinea Bissau told journalists.

Quizzed on what concrete steps the African Union is thinking of taking in coup-prone Guinea-Bissau that has been plagued by persistent unrest for so many years now, Ping said he had met on Wednesday with all the stakeholders in that country. He explains: “I have met with the leaders, the president of the National Assembly as interim president; the prime minister, the minister of Defence and the army; also the civil society and also with the international community – the ambassadors accredited there. I think that was a good meeting.”

Even though the situation is now claimed to be under control, the African Union Commission chief however stressed that the real problems are still in Guinea Bissau including the reform of the army. “So we talked about all the issues there and also we discussed them with the president [Jammeh]. I have a better evaluation of the situation not only in Guinea Bissau but in the sub-region and I am happy to be so long with the president” he stated.

Africa’s economic performance

The African Union Commission chairperson also underscored that Africa is performing “very well” in the fields of economics, but was quick to decry the current spate of conflicts ravaging the continent. “We are now having a rate of growth of the continent – the average is about 5.5 percent to six percent average with more than 10 countries having seven percent to 11 percent of the rate of growth like Ethiopia – is almost 11 percent,” he stated.

In the present context where Europe is having negative rate of growth – sometimes zero point something, according to Ping, the African continent is performing very well in the field of economics. He added: “But unfortunately we have the situation of conflicts in the continent – very difficult conflicts. This year is probably the worst year we have never had in the continent with the crises of Libya, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Somalia problem which have been there for more than 20 years, Sudan, etc.” While stressing that they have been confronted with tremendous problems, the AU Commission chairperson said they have to solve them because as he puts it, one will never have a sustainable peace without development, or a sustainable development without peace.

Quizzed on the need for African solution to an African problem, Jean Ping argued that it is impossible to solve African problems by ignoring the Africans. “It’s impossible. We are not saying that African problems need only African solution – we are saying that African problems need African solution with the assistance of the international community, not by ignoring the continent,” he concluded.

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