African Union summit opens with financing high on the agenda
Hot on the heels of the G5 Sahel meeting in Bamako, leaders from across Africa travel to Addis Ababa for the 29th Summit of the African Union (AU). The stakes of the meeting include how to finance an organisation which gets 80 percent of its budget from western donations.
The solution which has been proposed is a 0.2 percent levy which would be imposed on all eligible imports which enter a member state from outside the AU.
While the proposal has its supporters, some fear an ‘AU tax’ would be difficult to implement. There have even been suggestions, from reticent members that the move would contravene world trade rules.
"The idea of this tax is to make the organisation independent and self-sufficient," says the Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyema.
He dismisses claims that the tax would break World Trade Organisation rules pointing out that there is a similar levy within ECOWAS (the West African group of nations).
"Our position was that the implementation of the tax seemed to be posing problems for a number of states. We think that more time could be afforded to give countries the time to make the necessary changes."
While in principle there is a broad consensus supporting the move, the practicalities of implementing a continent-wide tax are complex.
Morocco back in the fold
Six months after the admission of Morocco, the AU is adjusting to the changing dynamic this brings to its internal politics.
For decades Morocco had been barred from the Union over the disputed region of Western Sahara.
The AU recognizes the government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. Rabat says the territory is a part of Morocco. Also known as Western Sahara, the United Nations does not deem the territory an independent state.
When the AU’s Human Rights Commission called for an "evaluation mission to be sent to the occupied territory" to investigate allegations of rights abuses, Morocco protested.
"Last Chance Saloon"
Among the crises facing heads of state and government at this summit is the fighting in South Sudan.
Last week, Juba sent a team to South Africa, where the vice president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, is currenly in exile.
If there are signs of an opening coming from president Salva Kiir, one reason is the pressure being applied by the African Union for the warring factions to cease hostilities.
As one AU official put it this summit is the "last chance saloon" for the parties to return to the negotiating table.
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