By Global Information Network
NEW YORK | ADDIS ABABA (IDN) – An outraged African Union (AU) recalled the kidnapping of Black Africans as it considered the controversial new US anti-immigrant rules. After forcibly bringing Africans to the U.S. as slave labour, noted the AU, Washington now slams the door on Muslim immigrants entering the U.S.
“It is clear that globally we are entering very difficult times,” cautioned outgoing AU Commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speaking at the January 30-31 summit of 53 member states in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries," she said.
On January 27, President Donald Trump suspended all U.S. refugee programs and banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, three of which are AU members.
The executive order signed by Trump specifically bars Libyans, Somalians and Sudanese from travelling to the U.S. It also blocks visas for citizens from four Middle Eastern countries – Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.
All U.S. refugee programs are frozen for 120 days, and the flow of Syrian refugees to America is ended indefinitely.
The new UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, speaking at the AU’s summit in Ethiopia, commended African countries for opening their borders to refugees and people fleeing violence while in other parts of the world, including the developed West, they are closing borders and building walls.
He praised African nations for being among the world's largest and most generous hosts of refugees.
AU Summit proceedings began with the swift election of Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, 56, as the new chairperson of the AU Commission, beating four other candidates.
Faki won in a final battle against his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed after seven rounds of voting. The Kenyan government praised Ms. Mohamed, once the odds-on favourite, for waging a "valiant race".
Faki takes on the role as his country's President Idriss Deby Itno hands over the rotating presidency of the AU to Guinea's Alpha Conde.
A former prime minister, Faki has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamists in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel and has promised "development and security" will top his agenda as chief of the 54-member continental bloc, which now includes Morocco after 33 years' absence.
Faki said he dreams of an Africa where the "sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories" and pledged to streamline the bureaucratic AU during his four-year term in office.
Morocco admitted as new member
A highlight of the AU summit was the readmission of Morocco after a 33-year absence. Opposition to its readmission was overcome among key AU players including Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Kenya and Angola, even as a last minute request for a legal opinion was submitted as to whether the AU could accept a member that is “occupying parts of the territory” of another member, namely the Western Sahara.
Morocco refuses to cede its claim to occupied Western Sahara, maintaining that the former Spanish colony is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory's independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.
Algeria and South Africa are the major allies of the Polisario Front. After talks with Polisario leader Brahim Ghali last month, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said: "It is unfathomable that Western Sahara... still remains colonized.
“We remain committed to continue to walk with the people of Western Sahara until you are free to live in your own land and able to determine your own future."
Intense lobbying had preceded the decision to readmit Morocco as fears grew among Western Saharans that they might be kicked out of the AU. Last year, 28 AU members signed a petition to expel it, even though the bloc’s treaty doesn’t chart a clear path for removing a member against its will.
Nevertheless, despite “fundamental concerns that have to be taken into account”, the AU’s legal counsel gave the green light to readmission.
Morocco left the AU’s predecessor (the Organization for African Unity) in 1984 protesting the body’s recognition of Western Sahara’s independence.
Working in Morocco’s favour was its affluence – much needed since the death of Muammar Gaddafi, a key financier of the AU.
Now, with Morocco, the AU gains a well-connected member as it seeks to move away from international funding and become more self-reliant in the face of isolationist tendencies in the U.S. and Europe. A close ally of the U.S., Morocco collaborates on the “war on terror” and has supported European Union efforts to stop African migrants from reaching its shores. [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 February 2017]
Photo: “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries." - Outgoing AU Commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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