African Union Summit Opens in Ethiopia

Posted January 29th, 2012 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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African Union leaders opened a two-day summit in Addis Ababa Sunday with the election of a new chairman for the pan-African organization.

Benin's President Thomas Yayi Boni was selected chairman for the next year, taking over from Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was among the first speakers in the new AU headquarters financed and built by China, an African trade partner.

Mr. Ban told AU leaders the 25 upcoming elections for presidents, legislatures and local races in Africa this year must be conducted in fairness.

He urged the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their differences over oil in the border area.

The U.N. chief also said Somalia is a fragile society that has the prospect of better years ahead.

The African Union leaders are expected to discuss Somalia's conflict and review disputes between Sudan and South Sudan.

On Saturday, the African Union inaugurated its new headquarters, built and donated by China at a cost of $200 million.

The event was attended by China's senior political adviser, Jia Qinglin, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and other African leaders.

Jia said the new AU complex is a testament to China's friendship with the African people. He also praised China's growing trade with African countries.

Prime Minister Meles praised what he called the African Renaissance, which he said was modeled on China's state-led economic model. He also took the opportunity to criticize the Western economic model of the late 20th century as “medicine that turned out to be worse than the disease.”