Rwanda President Paul Kagame has handed over the African Union [AU] Chairmanship to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the opening ceremony of the 32nd Ordinary Session of Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Kagame who led an active, reformist tenure as African Union chair expects al-Sisi to focus on security issues than expanding the powers of the body.
al-Sisi officially takes over the post of ceremonial head of the AU which rotates between the five regions of the continent.
“What remains is to pass this baton to the next Chairperson of the Union, none other than my friend and brother, His Excellency Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Kagame said during the hand over.
He added: “With our full and unqualified support, there is no doubt that he will take our Union forward decisively, to new and greater heights. I would be remiss if I do not single out the support and comfort I got from the AUC Chairperson and Commissioners.”
On the agenda of the two-day heads of state summit, is institutional reforms and the establishment of a continent-wide free trade zone.
The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) was agreed by 44 nations in March 2018, but only 19 countries have ratified the agreement, with 22 needed for it to come into effect, reports AFP.
The single market is a flagship of the AU’s “Agenda 2063” programme, conceived as a strategic framework for socioeconomic transformation.
Sisi, according to AFP, is expected to focus more on security, peacekeeping and post-war reconstruction, issues closely tied to the AU’s 2019 theme of “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons”.
Kagame, who has been leading institutional reforms since 2016, pushed for a continent-wide import tax to fund the AU and reduce its dependence on external donors, who still pay for more than half the institution’s annual budget.
But member states have resisted this along with reform of the AU Commission, its executive organ.
In November 2018, most states rejected a proposal to give the head of the AU Commission the power to name deputies and commissioners.
Kagame suffered a crushing blow from the AU after expressing “serious doubts” about the results of Democratic Republic of Congo’s recent presidential election, which was officially won by Felix Tshisekedi.
While also disputed by the Catholic Church, the results were validated by DRC’s constitutional court and saluted by continental heavyweights South Africa, Kenya and Egypt.