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AU foreign ministers debate Africa's future, citizens raise more urgent concerns

media South Sudan's leader of the government's delegation Nhial Deng Nhial signs a ceasefire to end more than five weeks of fighting, Addis Ababa, 23 January, 2014 Reuters/Birahnu Sebsibe

In Addis Ababa, African Union foreign ministers returned from a special ministerial retreat in the Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar yesterday in which they discussed the Africa Agenda 2063.

This formed part of the lead up to the main African Union summit meetings later this week and was intended as a brainstorm session on Pan-Africanism, and the future of Africa in 50 years time.

Meanwhile, in Addis Ababa itself, civil society voiced its concern about various crises across the continent, sending a message to heads of state before the summit kicks off.

Various representatives of civil society gathered in an empty AU commission building on Sunday to highlight the crises they think should be topping the agenda of the 2014 summit.

Audio report 27/01/2014 - by Daniel Finnan in Addis Ababa Listen

As various sides of the conflict in South Sudan continue to trade accusations about upholding the agreed ceasefire, civil society sent a message to African leaders about the instruments needed to ensure that a ceasefire is enforced and monitored.

Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation in South Sudan explains:

“African council for peace and security have to think about the implementation modalities, that’s the most important thing because we are worried about if there’s no implementation modalities, the likelihood of a violation of the ceasefire is very high, specifically on the side of the rebels, in which communications systems between their command and the soldiers on the ground, its very loose.”

South Sudan is of course one of the dominant topics at the moment. But other representatives from the Central African Republic and Mali were keen to ensure that the plight of their people wasn’t forgotten.

The same goes for Sudan. Some say that the attention given to their southern neighbours has given Khartoum the opportunity to intensify their aerial bombardment campaign.

Dismas Nkunda, Chairman of the Sudan Consortium:

“It has been overshadowed by South Sudan, but this particular area of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan, has had probably one of the worst attacks in recent times. We have seen that on average there are about two bombs that have landed on civilians every day since December.”

All of these concerns offer a stark contrast to the special ministerial retreat in Bahir Dar - but to be fair the heavyweight AU meetings have yet to begin.

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