The African Union held its thirty-third summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on February 9–10. The AU theme of the year for 2020, “Silencing the Guns”, is aimed at increasing the involvement of African Union members in mediating and resolving ongoing conflicts on the continent. Several other issues were addressed on the sidelines of the summit.
Before the opening of the summit, there was an interesting display of diplomatic formalities that did not jibe with the internal electoral politics of Guinea-Bissau. Umaro Sissoco Embaló, a former prime minister and ex-army general, claimed victory in the country’s most recent presidential election, but the Supreme Court has not formalized the result, instead calling on the electoral commission to clarify tabulation procedures used for the vote. His invitation from the AU was withdrawn on January 31, yet he was still welcomed with full honors by the Ethiopian president and engaged in lengthy discussion with Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of ECOWAS, and Chadian president Idriss Déby. Embaló later flew out to meet with Indonesian president Joko Widodo.
The Libyan Crisis was at the top of the agenda for the AU. African heads of state recently accused the United Nations of failing to include Africa in mediating discussions surrounding the Libyan conflict. Heeding these calls, the UN’s secretary-general António Guterres welcomed greater African involvement. Ceasefire agreements arranged in Berlin and at other peace summits held in Europe are expected to be enforced through a joint observation mission run by the AU and UN, along with a cross-faction meeting to be held at an as-yet undetermined site, with Algiers or Addis Ababa the likely host city.
Djibouti used the AU summit to once again demand a seat at the Security Council as a non-permanent member, for which the African Union has preferred Kenya. President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti spoke with his counterparts from Egypt, the Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia on the subject, and Guelleh’s minister of foreign affairs, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, lobbied his Moroccan and Gabonese counterparts.
Idriss Déby took advantage of the summit to meet with Sudanese prime minister Abdallah Hamdok regarding a reinforcement of the joint border-security cooperation. He also expressed concern to Central African Republic president Faustin-Archange Touadéra over the potential return of ex-president François Bozizé, which could inflame tensions amid a precarious security situation; and spoke with Angolan president João Lourenço, whose country is one the largest importers of Chadian cattle.
Two days prior to the summit, representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the secretary-general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie hosted foreign affairs ministers from Tunisia, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Comoros, Gabon, and Djibouti at a banquet at the Hotel Sheraton Addis.