The 22nd Assembly of Heads of State and Government Opens in Addis Ababa

Outgoing AU Chairperson, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, told the opening of the two day Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government on Thursday (January 30) that the organization needed to find urgent solution for South Sudan and Central African Republic "to rescue these two sisterly countries from falling into the Abyss,"

."Failure to do so", he added, "will have serious implications for peace and security in the region and indeed the whole continent." He called in both sides in South Sudan to put down their arms. "Both protagonists should know that the problem cannot be resolved through the barrel of the gun. Therefore, they should be fully committed to sit at the negotiating table without any preconditions so as to find a political settlement to the crises," he said.

Prime Minister Hailemariam said "We need to build on the progress that we have achieved in the past year and exert more efforts to address some of the emerging challenges confronting our continent." He congratulated his successor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and pledged his full support to the new Chairperson.

The Summit is meeting under the theme, "Transforming Africa's Agriculture: Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, " and the AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, told the Assembly that Africa needs to boost food production and improve its manufacturing to benefit from its natural resources and agricultural products. She underscored the need to tackle the root causes of conflicts, to invest in the empowerment of young people and women to bring peace to Africa.

In his opening speech, President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, congratulated Prime Minister Hailemariam for "contributing brilliantly to strengthen the role of Africa on both continental and international levels." At the opening ceremony, a minute of silence was held in memory of the former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

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