Outgoing AU Head Slams Trump For US Taking Slaves But Banning Refugees
Today’s African Union summit had divisive issues on the agenda, including Africa’s relationship to the International Criminal Court and Morocco’s readmission to the A.U., but the outgoing A.U. head identified U.S. Donald Trump’s refugee ban as one of the “greatest challenges to our unity.”
Representatives of the A.U.’s 54 member countries are meeting in Addis Ababa for a two-day summit.
The organization is entering “very turbulent times” after the U.S. president’s election, said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, outgoing chairwoman of the A.U. Commission.
“The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the trans-Atlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,” said Dlamini-Zuma said, according to a report in The Independent.
A.U. leaders today chose Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat to replace Dlamini-Zuma, who is leaving the job to pursue political ambitions in South Africa, Reuters reported.
Trump issued executive orders temporarily suspending all U.S. refugee programs for 120 days and temporarily stopping people from travelling to the US. who hold passports from three African countries – Libya, Somalia and Sudan. It also blocked visas for citizens from four Muslim-majority countries – Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.
The Trump administration’s view is that these are reasonable measures to allow time for a new system of vetting to be introduced, CNN reported.
Critics in the U.S. say the moves by Trump go against “bedrock values that define the (U.S.).”
“What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity,” Dlamini-Zuma said in a call to action, The Independent reported.
Morocco and the A.U.
Other divisions are likely to be exposed when heads of state decide whether to approve the re-admission of Morocco into the A.U., Reuters reported.
Morocco withdrew from the A.U.’s predecessor — the Organisation of African Unity — in 1984 to protest against the admission of disputed Western Sahara territories. Now it wants back in. Moroccan King Mohammed VI has been trying for the last year to try and get Morocco readmitted.
Most of Western Sahara has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.
Algeria and South Africa have supported the Sahrawi Republic, the political movement that lays claim to the territory along the Northern Sahara’s Atlantic seaboard, Reuters reported. They have not said they will oppose Morocco’s re-entry.
International Criminal Court and the A.U.
Summit meetings have also been dominated by disagreements over the International Criminal Court (ICC), which South Africa and Kenya condemn as a Western throwback of colonialism that disproportionately targets Africa.
By contrast, Botswana, Nigeria, and other countries say the Hague-based ICC is an important legal entity for countries whose justice systems have been compromised by civil conflict, Reuters reported:
“You have all these calls for unity but actually if you look at the A.U. now, it is more divided than ever – over Morocco, the regional divisions and the ICC,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, an A.U. expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. “It’s unprecedented.”
When Dlamini-Zuma became the first representative of Africa’s big-five countries to lead the A.U., it went against a tradition of leaving the post to smaller countries, Pambazuka News reported. The tradition had been a way of balancing power since the Organisation of African Unity days.
Newly installed U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres of Portugal received applause when he spoke while attending today’s summit — his first A.U. summit as U.N. chief, AP reported. He praised African countries for allowing refugees and people fleeing violence to enter while other parts of the world, including the developed West, build walls and close borders, the Independent reported.
“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees,” Guterres said.