October 18, 2012

African Governance: 2012 Ibhrahim Index

Filed under: Africa — ethiopiantimes @ 9:39 am
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African flags blow in the wind as leaders arrive in Rwanda’s capital Kigali 13/02/2004. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters) African flags blow in the wind as leaders arrive in Rwanda’s capital Kigali 13/02/2004. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I wrote about the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Today, I am writing about the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), published October 15 by the same foundation. Using eighty-eight indicators, it scores each country in Africa from one hundred (best) to one (worst) with respect to governance. This year, the IIAG included for the first time the north African states of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Overall, the IIAG finds that African governance has improved since 2000. But, since 2006, it concludes that governance in certain areas has declined for the continent’s “regional powerhouses,” Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

This year, the “top ten” countries are Mauritius (ranked eighty-three), Cape Verde (seventy-eight), Botswana (seventy-seven), Seychelles (seventy-three), South Africa (seventy-one), Namibia (seventy), Ghana (sixty-six), Tunisia (sixty-three), Lesotho (sixty-one) and Tanzania (fifty-nine). The “worst ten” are Somalia (seven), Democratic Republic of Congo (thirty-three), Chad (thirty-three), Eritrea (thirty-three), Central African Republic (thirty-four), Zimbabwe (thirty-four), Cote d’Ivoire (thirty-nine), Guinea-Bissau (forty), Equatorial Guinea (forty-one), and Nigeria (forty-two). Neither Sudan nor South Sudan were ranked this year for lack of comprehensive data.

Because the country rankings are determined by aggregate scores, South Africa is ranked high over all, even though it has declined in certain categories.

It is striking that the successful states tend to be small in population–Mauritius (1,313,095), Cape Verde (523,568), Botswana (2,098,018), Seychelles (90,024), Namibia (2,165,828), and Lesotho (1,930,493). Three of these are islands: Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Seychelles. Of the “top ten”, only South Africa (48,810,427), Tanzania (46,912,768), and Ghana (24,652,402) have large populations. The population of Tunisia, the only North African state in the “top ten,” is 10,732,900.

Africa’s largest states by population outside north Africa fare poorly. Nigeria (170,123,740) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (73,599,190) are in the bottom ten, while Ethiopia (91,195,675) is in the bottom half, bracketed by Mauritania and Liberia. Egypt (83,688,164) scores relatively well in comparison with its rank of fourteen.

The bracketing together by composite score of countries as different as Mauritania, Ethiopia, and Liberia highlights the shortcomings of rankings of this sort. Nevertheless, like the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, the IIAG provides categories and vocabularies to talk about rates of progress (as defined by the IIAG) among all states on the African continent. It is a helpful analytical tool, not a prediction of the future. And few would quarrel with the conclusion that Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Botswana are successful, while Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad struggle.


July 10, 2012

24 Eritreans among 55 migrants die of thirst off N. African coast: U.N

Filed under: Africa,Eritrea — ethiopiantimes @ 9:49 pm
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Fifty four people trying to reach Italy from Libya died of thirst after a 15-day voyage in which their rubber boat gradually deflated, the United Nations Refugee Agency said on Tuesday, citing the sole survivor.

It said the man, an Eritrean national, was rescued by Tunisian coastguards in a state of advanced dehydration clinging to the remains of the boat after being spotted by fishermen the previous night, the agency said.

The man said he left Libya towards the end of June as part of a 55-strong group, half of whom came from Eritrea.

He told UNHCR officials the craft nearly reached the coast of Italy but was driven back by strong winds and began to deflate after a few days.

It was not carrying enough water and people soon began to suffer from dehydration. Many also drank sea water, which worsened their thirst, he told the officials.

The incident is the latest in a long series of disasters which have killed thousands of migrants attempting to reach southern Europe from North Africa in small, unstable and frequently overcrowded boats.

According to the UNHCR, around 170 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from Libya. Around 1,300 have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of 2012 and another 1,000 people have reached Ma

June 26, 2012

Food without freedom: Anti-government activists in Ethiopia call on foreign governments to question their country’s human rights record.


Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reads a joint declaration as the rest of the African leaders gather for a photo at the end of the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation November 5, 2006 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Andrew Wong/Getty Images)

Ethiopia receives one of the highest amounts of foreign aid in the world. Much of that aid is food, but some human rights activists ask: what good is food, if you don’t have freedom?

Zenawi has been criticised for abusing anti-terrorism laws to prosecute members of political opposition and the media. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been charged with terrorism and criminal suits since last year.

Now the government is discussing whether VOIP – or Voice over Internet Protocol – communications, like Skype, should be criminalised.

Many Ethiopian activists are calling on the international community to question the rights record of their country before sending aid. In this episode of The Stream, we speak to journalist Abebe Gellaw and Berhanu Nega, former mayor of Addis Ababa.

What do you think? What role should human rights play in supporting development aid? How much control should the government have over its telecommunications? Read More on ALJAZEERA

June 12, 2012

Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi protects Sudanese dictator Al Bashir from ICC by moving AU summit to Addis

Filed under: Africa,AU,Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 4:49 pm
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The African Union has moved its July summit to the Ethiopian capital after Malawi blocked the attendance of Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the bloc said.

Malawi last month asked the African Union to prevent Bashir from taking part in the event, saying his visit would have “implications” for its aid-dependent economy.

“Following the withdrawal of … Malawi to host the 19th AU summit meetings … and after consultations among member states, it has been decided that the 19th summit will be held at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the same dates,” the AU said in a statement late on Monday.

As an ICC member state, Malawi would be obliged to arrest Bashir if he enters its territory. Bashir is accused of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in Darfur.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor has called for aid cuts to countries that fail to detain him.

Malawi angered international donors, who have provided about 40 percent of its budget funding, when it hosted Bashir last year while Bingu we Mutharika ruled the country. Mutharika died in April.

African heads of state voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the ICC indictments, saying they would hamper efforts to end Sudan’s multiple conflicts, and criticized the court for unfairly targeting African countries.

Bashir has since visited Kenya and Chad, both ICC members, as well as Ethiopia, Eritrea and other countries – an embarrassment for the global court.

The agenda for the July summit includes relations with South Sudan, which seceded last year under a 2005 peace deal, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry has said. The two countries are at odds over issues including the position of the border, oil payments, debt and the status of citizens in one another’s territory.

(Editing by George Obulutsa and Janet Lawrence)

February 15, 2012

Ethiopians sign petition for emperor’s statue at the AU

Filed under: Africa,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 11:52 am
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Ghana President John Atta Mills (black suit), former President Jerry Rawlings (in yellow) and Kwame Nkrumah’s children Prof Francis Nkrumah and Madam Samia among others pose with the independence leader’s newly-unveiled statue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. PHOTO | PRESIDENCY.GOV.GH |

Ethiopians are signing a petition demanding the erection of a statue of former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie at the African Union’s Addis Ababa headquarters.

The campaign comes two weeks after the AU unveiled a statue of former Ghanaian leader and renowned pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah at its new compound.

Prime minister Meles Zenawi while answering a question in parliament called Haile Selassie a “feudal dictator” and termed the campaign “disrespectful”.

A team of self-organised Ethiopian politicians, scholars, elders and other individuals have also written a letter to the AU Commission expressing their disappointment with the “ignoring” of Haile Selassie.

The letter also called for the 54-member bloc to consider putting up a statue of the emperor.

The Nkrumah statue was inaugurated together with the AU’s new $200 million Chinese-built headquarters.

Nkrumah is largely credited with being the brains behind the creation of the Organisation of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor.

But Ethiopians have highlighted the role and contribution of Haile Selassie during the OAU’s establishment as well as supporting the liberation struggles of many African countries.

February 11, 2012

Why Did the African Union Snub Emperor Haile Selassie?

Filed under: Africa,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 9:55 pm
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Emperor Haile Selassie with Ambassador Ketema Yifru (Photo:

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Assembly of the African Union this month. The leaders took the opportunity to inaugurate the new Headquarter building constructed at a cost of 200 million US dollars as a donation of the Chinese government.

Amidst the many dazzling features enjoyed by the new facilities, striking was the statue in the forecourt of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President. Dr. Nkrumah is a well known and respected figure in African history for being in the forefront of the movement for African independence from European colonialism and for a proponent of Pan Africanism.

Without denying Dr. Nkrumah the credit he deserves for all mentioned above and more, it still defies logic why his statue stands in the forecourt of the African Union building in Addis Ababa while there is no memorial whatsoever to Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

No one with any sense of history whatsoever can reasonably claim that Dr. Nkrumah played a more significant role in the formation of the OAU, now the AU, than did Emperor Haile Selassie.

No one but Ambassador Ketema Yifru, (Foreign Minister at the time), who seems to be all but forgotten as well, can make this claim without opposing the historical evidence. The leaders of the 32 independent African countries came together in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in May of 1963.

Most of the public is unaware of “the shuttle diplomacy, the closed door negotiations and all the effort” preceding the creation of the OAU according to the Mekonnen Ketema, son of Ketema Yifru on his website dedicated to the creation of the OAU. Read more on

February 6, 2012

Behind African ‘land grabs’ by U.S. institutions and universities

Filed under: Africa,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 9:51 pm
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(AP/Denis Farrell)

Shown here is a stretch of farm land near Groblersdal, South Africa.

A new report from Human Rights Watch says that Ethiopia is forcibly relocating 70,000 indigenous people from the city of Gambella. The reason? To free up land for foreign investment. The report goes on to argue that actions like this, which move people to areas where they can’t feed themselves, are a sure-fire recipe for large-scale famine.

Today, Worldview delves into land grabs. Entities such as USAID, the World Bank, and major U.S. universities are often the architects behind these land deals, which promise benefits for Africans but can often deliver food insecurity and displacement.

Anuradha Mittal, founder and director of the Oakland Institute, tells Worldview how these deals take place.  The institute researches how land grabs force farmers out of their homes and livelihoods in Africa.


To read research reports published by the Oakland Institute, click here.

January 30, 2012

African Dictators: Can’t Run, Can’t Hide!

Filed under: Africa,Azeb Mesfin,Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 12:50 pm
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Alemayehu G Mariam

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is on the chase; and over the past few months, things have taken a slow turn for the worse for African dictators and human rights violators. They are finding out that they can’t run and they can’t hide.

Laurent “Cling-to-power-at-any-cost” Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire was snatched from his palatial hiding place in April 2011 after he defiantly refused to give up power to Alassane Ouattara in a presidential election certified by international observers in December 2010. In late November 2011, Gbagbo was  quietly whisked away to the Hague from house arrest in Korhogo in the north of the country to face justice before the  ICC on charges of crimes against humanity (murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts) that were allegedly committed during the post-election period. The U.N. estimates well over three thousand people died between December 2010 and April 2011 as a result of extrajudicial killings by supporters of Gbagbo and Ouattara. Gbagbo is the second former head of state to be tried by the ICC since it was set up in 2002.

Last week, a High Court judge in Kenya ordered Kenyan officials to arrest and deliver Sudan’s president Omar Al-Bashir to the ICC to face charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide if he ever set foot again in Kenya. The U.N. estimates well over 300,000 people have perished under Bashir’s regime. Bashir unsuccessfully claimed immunity from prosecution as a sitting head of state. Nearly all of the other unindicted African dictators have chimed in to severely criticize the ICC and demand suspension of Bashir’s arrest warrant. Five other suspects are also sought on ICC warrants in the Sudan including Ahmed Haroun, a lawyer and minister of humanitarian affairs, Ali Kushayb, a former senior Janjaweed (local militiamen allied with the Sudanese regime against Darfur rebels), Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, a rebel leader and two others.

In another development in Kenya last week, Uhuru Kenyatta, finance minister and son of Kenya’s famed independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, resigned following an ICC ruling  that he will face trial for crimes against humanity in connection with the communal post-election violence between supporters of presidential candidates Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki in 2008. The U.N. estimates some 1,200 people died in weeks of unrest between December 2007 and February 2008 and 600,000 people were forcibly displaced. Cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura, a close ally of president Mwai Kibaki, former Education Minister William Ruto and radio announcer Joshua arap Sang face similar charges.

The ICC had also issued arrest warrants for Moammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity. Last week, Libya’s Justice Minster announced that Libya, and not the ICC, will be trying Saif al-Islam. Al-Senoussi remains a fugitive from justice.

Last but not forgotten is former Liberian president Charles Taylor who went on trial on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in The Hague before the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He is awaiting a verdict after a nearly three and half year trial.

The ICC presently has open investigations against individuals in various countries including Uganda, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur and Cote d’Ivoire. The rogue’s gallery of suspects sought in ICC issued arrest warrants for crimes against humanity and war crimes include five senior leaders of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda including the notorious Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti and three other top commanders. In the DR Congo various rebel and militia leaders and Congolese military officers and politicians including  Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Bosco Ntaganda, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and two others are targets of ICC investigation.

No ICC, No Justice?

The ICC, established in 2002, is an institution with a lot of  legal and political limitations in its investigative and prosecutorial duties.  For instance, it has authority over “crimes against humanity” only if the acts were “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” The crimes must have been “extensively or rationally orchestrated” by the perpetrators. The ICC can investigate cases only where the accused is a national of a state party that has accepted ICC jurisdiction and the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or if a “situation” is referred by the Security council. Most importantly, it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.

The ICC has a very difficult job to do in investigating and chasing the world’s worst human rights violations across the planet. Despite its recent establishment, obstacles and limitations, it has a respectable record. As of September 2010, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor had received 8,874 “communications” about alleged human rights violations. After an initial review, it declined to proceed with  4,002 of them concluding that they are “manifestly outside the jurisdiction of the Court”. To date, the Court has opened investigations in seven African countries.  Three investigations began following referral by state parties, the UN Security Council referred two more (Darfur and Libya) and two were begun proprio motu (“ICC prosecutor began on his own initiative”). To date, the ICC has charged 27 people and issued arrest warrants for 18 more.  Five individuals are in various stages of trial and eight remain at large as fugitives. Two individuals died before their trials concluded and charges were dismissed against four.

The one unsettled question is what happens to those individuals who commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in official or unofficial capacity but cannot be prosecuted because they are not part of the regime of the Rome Statute which established the ICC. For instance, Ethiopia has not ratified or accepted the Rome Statute and technically does not come under ICC jurisdiction. Does that mean the individuals who perpetrated crimes against humanity and war crimes in that country will never be held accountable under any international system of criminal justice?

The evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ethiopia is fully documented, substantial and overwhelming. An official Inquiry Commission report in 2006 documented the extrajudicial killing of at least 193 persons, wounding of 763 others and arbitrary imprisonment of nearly 30,000 persons in the post-2005 election period in that country. There are at least 237 individuals identified and implicated in these crimes. In December 2003, in Gambella, Ethiopia, 424 individuals died in extrajudicial killings by security forces.  In the Ogaden, reprisal “executions of 150 individuals” and 37 others were documented by Human Rights Watch in 2008 which charged:

Ethiopian military personnel who ordered or participated in attacks on civilians should be held responsible for war crimes. Senior military and civilian officials who knew or should have known of such crimes but took no action may be criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility. The widespread and apparently systematic nature of the attacks on villages throughout Somali Region is strong evidence that the killings, torture, rape, and forced displacement are also crimes against humanity for which the Ethiopian government bears ultimate responsibility.

In 2010, Human Rights Watch made a  submission to the U.N. Committee Against Torture “regarding serious patterns of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in Ethiopia.”

Torture and ill-treatment have been used by Ethiopia’s police, military, and other members of the security forces to punish a spectrum of perceived dissenters, including university students, members of the political opposition, and alleged supporters of insurgent groups, as well as alleged terrorist suspects. Human Rights Watch has documented incidents of torture and ill-treatment by Ethiopian security forces in a range of settings. The frequency, ubiquity, and patterns of abuse by agents of the central and state governments demonstrate systematic mistreatment involving commanding officers, not random activity by rogue soldiers and police officers. In several cases documented by Human Rights Watch, military commanders participated personally in torture.

Universal Jurisdiction

The are obvious limits to the globalization of criminal justice under the ICC regime. But does that mean human rights violators who are not subject to ICC jurisdiction get away with murder, torture, war crimes and genocide? Maybe not.

There is an encouraging trend globally that more and more national courts are willing to operate under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction to prosecute gross human rights violators for atrocities committed outside their countries. Simply stated, if someone who committed crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide is found in another country where the crimes were not committed, that country makes it its obligation to bring the perpetrator to justice using its own courts. For instance, Article 5 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment provides that each State shall “take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him.”

Universal jurisdiction has been exercised in a number of high profile cases. A Spanish judge charged former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet in 1998 for crimes against humanity committed in Chile. After years of appeal and delays, Pinochet died in 2006 without facing justice.  A Belgian court in 2001 convicted the killers of two Rwandan nuns for war crimes during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. A Belgian court in 2005 indicted the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré, for crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes and other human rights  violations committed during his presidency in Chad. Two weeks ago, a Senegalese court blocked the extradition of the Chadian dictator because Belgium failed to file the “original arrest warrant and other papers”. A German court has convicted a former leader of a paramilitary Serb group for acts of genocide committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1997.  Over the past several decades, more than 15 countries have exercised universal jurisdiction in investigations or prosecutions of persons suspected of crimes under international law including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and the United States of America.

There are other non-criminal legal remedies as well. For instance, the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) National Security Investigations Division conducts investigations to prevent foreign war crimes suspects, persecutors and human rights abusers from entering the United States. It also identifies, prosecutes and deports such offenders who have entered the U.S. Over the past 8 years, ICE has arrested more than 200 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes and deported more than 400 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, ICE is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from nearly 95 different countries. HRVWCU receives anonymous tips and information from those who report suspected war criminals and human rights violators residing in the U.S.  Individuals seeking to report suspected human rights violators may contact the HRV unit at HRV.ICE@DHS.GOV   

Justice Delayed is Not Justice Denied, Just Delayed

Justice delayed is just delayed. The victims of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet might have thought justice delayed is justice denied. So may have thought the victims of Argentina’s Dirty War. The facts are very encouraging. Since December 2006, Chilean prosecutors and judges have convicted hundreds of former military personnel in the Pinochet regime accused of committing grave human rights violations. As of July 2008, 482 former military personnel and civilian collaborators were facing charges for a variety of offenses classified under crimes against humanity. Among these, 256 had been convicted, of whom 83 had had their convictions confirmed on appeal. In the Argentine Dirty War (the generals’ war against thousands of activists, militants, trade unionists, students, journalists and others), the mighty generals have been held to account. Many of the top military officers involved including Leopoldo Galtieri, general and President of Argentina, Jorge Rafael Videla, former senior Army commander and de facto President and other lesser known top officers were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment or long prison terms. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictator for over three decades, his sons, interior minsiter and others are today facing justice in an Egyptian court. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Ali Saleh of Yemen will no doubt face justice in Syria, Yemen or elsewhere. Justice will also arrive like a slow, chugging and delayed train for those who have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ethiopia.

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African Dictators gathered togethre in HQ funded by Chinese sponsers of dictators

Filed under: Africa — ethiopiantimes @ 11:54 am
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January 30, 2012 by Olalekan Adetayo, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Leave a Comment

The 20-storey African Union Conference Centre built and donated to Africa by the Chinese government was inaugurated on Saturday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia amidst fanfare.

President Goodluck Jonathan attended the inauguration and several other meetings of the AU alongside his counterparts from the continent.

The inauguration featured colourful cultural display by many African countries including Nigeria.

The 100 metre tall centre said to the tallest tower in Ethiopia incorporating a 2,500 capacity plenary hall was built at a cost of $200 million.

In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping, described the building as a dream come true.

Ping expressed his gratitude to both the governments of Ethiopia and China.

“Our dream came true and we are now overlooking a modern architectural jewel symbolising the historical relations between China and our continent,” he said.

He added that the new conference centre would help promote the AU’s presence and its competitiveness in the global arena, as well as improve its working capacity.

The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi, said the new headquarters of the continental organisation which has been at the centre of the struggle for the African integration and development was a symbol of the rise of Africa.

He noted that over the past decades and despite rampant hopelessness throughout the continent, China-Africa cooperation has gone from strength to strength.

“The future prospects of our partnership are even brighter and it is therefore very appropriate for China to decide to build this hall,” he said.

President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Teodoro Mbasogo, said the new conference centre was a reflection of the new Africa, and that it endows Africans with the right tools to showcase their human and natural resources.

The inauguration of the building concluded with the presentation of gifts to seven Chinese officials who played a key role in the construction of the centre followed by the handing over of the golden key of the conference centre to the Chairperson of the Union who then handed it over the Chairperson of the AU.

Following a group photograph and amidst cultural performances drawn from member states of the AU, a statue of Kwame Nkrumah was unveiled.

There was also a brief ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the construction of an African Union Human Rights Memorial.

January 29, 2012

Ethiopia: New African Union Building and Kwame Statue (Video)

Filed under: Africa,AU — ethiopiantimes @ 8:36 pm
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Built on a 110,000 sq of land donated by Ethiopian government to the AU, the over 100 meters tall new African Union Conference Center (AUCC) financed by the Chinese government was inaugurated on Saturday January 28, 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With a budget of $200 million dollars, around 350 Chinese and Ethiopian workers started the construction project in June 2009. The AUCC is a standard international conference center and it has 2,500 seat big conference hall, a 650 seats medium conference hall, five press conference rooms, two VIP rooms, water fountains, a garden, theatre, parking area, libraries and medical centers among many other facilities. Several African leaders and dignitaries attended the inauguration ceremony Saturday. Ethiopian Prime Minister hailed the new building as “a symbol of the rise of Africa.”

The building also has a helicopter landing pad so that African leaders can be flown from Bole International Airport directly to the AU building to avoid traffic. The office tower next to the conference halls will become the new home of about 1,000 African Union staff members.

The inauguration ceremony was followed by the laying of the first stone of the AU Memorial for Human Rights and the unveiling of the Kwame Nkrumah Monument, in honor of the first Ghana president. Along with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, President Kwame Nkrumah was one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU. Underneath the golden statue of Kwame Nkrumah is a biblical quote and the inscription: “Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God, Africa must unite,” a statement on the founding of OAU, the predecessor of the AU, the Organisation of African Unity in May 1963. Former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings and President Mills were guests of honor at the ceremony.

African Union leaders meet on Sunday, January 29, 2012 for the 18th African Union Summit and the first summit since the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi, who wanted to change AU headquarters from Addis Ababa to Sirte town of Libya. Gadaffi was a strong promoter of the idea of the “United States of Africa (USA),” a concept first initiated by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1964. During the 2012 Summit, AU leaders will vote to select the next Chairperson of the 54-nation AU executive council.

South Africa’s Minister Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the main challenger to unseat the current AU executive Chairperson Mr. Jean Ping, the former foreign minister of Gabon.

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