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Africa: Communique of the Teleconference Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union and the Chairpersons of the AU Regional Economic Communities

Communique of the teleconference Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union and the Chairpersons of the AU Regional Economic Communities held on 24 December 2020

His Excellency, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, and Chairperson of the African Union (AU) convened a teleconference Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union and the Chairpersons of the African Union Regional Economic Communities on 24 December 2020.

All Members of the Bureau of the Assembly participated in the Meeting as follows:

1st Vice Chairperson, His Excellency, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo;

2nd Vice Chairperson, S.E. Bah N’Daw, President de la Transition, Chef de l’Etat Republic du Mali was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.E. Zeini Moulaye;

3rd Vice Chairperson, His Excellency, President Uhuru Muigi Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya;

Rapporteur, His Excellency, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The following Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) also attended the meeting:

H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS);

H.E. Nana Addo Dakwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS);

H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Chair of the East African Community (EAC);

H.E. Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, Chair of Southern African Development Community (SADC);

H.E. Abdallah Hamdok, Prime Minister of the Republic of the Sudan, Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD);

Dr Tehindrazanarivelo Djacoba A.S. Oliva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar participated on behalf of the Chair of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the President of the Republic of Madagascar, His Excellency President Andry Rajoelina;

H.E. Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad, Chair of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) was represented by the Foreign Minister, Amine Abba Sidick;

H.E. Mr Guam Ibrahim AMER, Permanent Representative and Personal Envoy of the President of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord of the State of Libya, Chair of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA);

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Ambassador Amira Elfadil and the Director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr John Nkengasong, also participated in the teleconference Meeting.

In his opening remarks, President Ramaphosa commended the Heads of State and Government for their extraordinary leadership in the fight against the COVID-19 and showing flexibility to attend the urgent meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly and Chairs of RECs. He stated that the purpose of the meeting was to consider the proposal of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to convene the 34th Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive and the 41st Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC). In this regard, he referred to Assembly decision 779 which sets out the dates for the Ordinary Sessions of the Assembly, the Executive Council and the PRC as follows:

(i) 41st Ordinary Session of the PRC – 18 to 19 January 2021;

(ii) 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council – 3 to 4 February 2021;

(iii) 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly – 6 to 7 February 2021.

Before he invited the Chairperson of the AU Commission to brief the meeting on the proposal of the Commission, the Chair of the Union reiterated that the meeting was convened to explore the best way to convene these Ordinary Sessions in the light of the unfolding second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which appeared to be more intense than the first wave.

The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat presented the Commission’s concept note on the modalities of convening of the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council and the 41st Ordinary Session of the PRC. In the main, he recommended that the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly be convened physically in Addis Ababa, Headquarters of the AU Commission on 6th February 2021 with a highly streamlined agenda and limited participation per delegation. The agenda could among others include a short opening ceremony; election of the Bureau of the Assembly of the AU; handing over between the outgoing and incoming Chairpersons of the Union; election of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Commission; information on the implementation of the Joint Strategy to fight against covid-19.

Should it not be possible to hold a physical 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Chairperson of the Commission recommended a virtual Session that would among other agenda items conduct electronic/online elections for the senior leadership of the Commission. He also recommended that both the 41st Ordinary Session of the PRC and the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council be held virtually.

Dr John Nkengasong, Director Africa CDC provided an update on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Continent. It was noted that the Second Phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared in some African Countries, and South Africa in particular. The presentation made by the CDC highlighted an upsurge in the Continent, with varying degrees of increasing infections and fatalities which at this stage were notable on the upward trend.

Dr Nkengasong also mentioned that although the infections were showing an upward trend, however, in Addis Ababa specifically, there was a noticable downward trend. The Director confirmed that the pandemic was accelerating and had picked up since July 2020, and mentioned that the impact of the holiday festivities would not be known until the middle of January 2021. Assessment of the situation during mid-January will indicate trends and patterns and this will inform recommendations. Africa CDC will develop protocols/guidelines based on modelled risks.

The meeting of the Bureau and Chairs of RECs thereafter discussed the recommendations by the Commission, with the majority supporting that the 34th Ordinary Assembly be held physically, whilst others called for caution in the light of the covid-19 situation which needed to be monitored on an ongoing basis.