February 1, 2012
By John Kulekana
Addis Ababa — AFRICAN leaders have resolved to establish a continental free trade area (FTA) by the year 2017, in a move designed to boost intra-African trade.
This is among several resolutions adopted by the 18th African Union (AU) Summit which ended here early on Tuesday, after very long deliberations. The leaders have directed the AU Commission to draw a road-map on implementation of the proposed FTA and a detailed plan of action.
The summit, however, underscored the need to improve infrastructure throughout the continent and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. The outgoing AU Commission Chairman, Dr Jean Ping, on Sunday urged African countries to enhance trading among themselves to lift economic growth and development on the continent.
“African countries do not trade enough with themselves,” Ping said in his address at the opening of summit under the theme: “Boosting Intra-African Trade.” Dr Ping, a seasoned Gabonese diplomat, told the summit that increased intra-African trade would lay the foundation for “stronger and more sustainable economic growth.”
AU sources say African intra-regional trade accounts for 11 per cent of the continent’s total trade volume, while Asia accounts for 47 per cent and Europe the rest. The summit expressed concern over pockets of insecurity and protracted conflicts in Africa including Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya.
They called upon conflicting parties in Libya to end hostilities, restore peace and embark on reconstruction of the country and build democracy, rule of law and genuine law enforcing organs. The leaders derided proliferation of weapons in Libya and neighbouring countries, calling for cooperation in getting rid of the arms.
The summit expressed concern on violence and tension between Sudan and South Sudan, appealing to the two parties to implement the Nairobi Comprehensive Agreement. Meanwhile, Tanzania will continue supporting various reforms at the Arusha-based African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) including proposed extension of its jurisdiction to enable it preside over genocide, war crimes and other serious offences against humanity.
After extension of its jurisdiction the court will have powers similar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, the Netherlands, where several African politicians have been arraigned. President Jakaya Kikwete has also pledged to finance construction of an ultra-modern headquarters building in Arusha befitting its international status.
The president made the pledges during talks with ACHPR head, Justice Gerald Niyungeko and his delegation that paid a courtesy call on him at the Sheraton Hotel here on Tuesday. The delegation also included the court’s Vice-President, Justice Sophia Akuffo, Judge Elsie Nwanuri and the court’s Registrar, Dr Robert Eno.
President Kikwete told the ACHPR delegation that they should present architectural designs to the Tanzanian government for further action. The government will provide the plot for the proposed building. “We want to have in place a big and beautiful structure that will enhance Africa’s respect,” Mr Kikwete stressed. The building will also house the Africa Legal Institute.
The 18th African Union (AU) summit that ended here on Monday endorsed the proposal for the court to have its headquarters in Arusha. Justice Niyungeko told President Kikwete that the court was now receiving a significant number of cases. He said last year 14 cases were filed, including one from Tanzania. Seven of them have been settled.
He said the court has also received two legal advisory requests. He hailed Tanzania for providing political and material support to the institution including its request for enhancing the status of its judges and increasing employment opportunities. President Kikwete who was among African leaders who attended the summit returned home on Tuesday evening.