30th Meeting Of The African Union Held In Ethiopia

Jan 29, 2018
Originally published on January 29, 2018 5:33 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Africa's leaders are meeting for the first time since President Trump made derogatory comments about the continent. This is the 30th meeting of the African Union, taking place in Ethiopia. And the talk has focused on unity, also fighting corruption. But Trump's words also hang over the gathering. Here's NPR's Eyder Peralta.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The first day of the African Union Summit starts with the welcoming of Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the body's new chairman.

(APPLAUSE)

PERALTA: Despite criticism that Kagame's government is repressive and authoritarian, he has become one of the most influential leaders on the continent, admired for bringing Rwanda out of the genocide into a relatively prosperous period. In his acceptance speech, Kagame says Africa has to industrialize and do it quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME: We are running out of time. And we must act now to save Africa from permanent deprivation.

PERALTA: His solution is a pan-African vision, a united Africa where people can move freely across borders. And by the end of this year, Kagame wants to finalize a continental free trade agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

KAGAME: We will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual.

(APPLAUSE)

KAGAME: Our people deserve a brighter future.

PERALTA: Of course, it was not lost on anyone that this talk of cooperation and an ascendant Africa was being held weeks after President Trump is said to have trashed the entire continent. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the AU Commission chairman, clearly referenced Trump in his speech, saying the international community is made weaker by, quote, "growing national selfishness and the trivialization of xenophobia."

MOUSSA FAKI MAHAMAT: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: "We should express our concern," he says, "and recommit to solidarity, tolerance and mutual respect. It is," he says, "essential for the survival of humanity." The bulk of the summit, however, concerned the fight against corruption. Presidents from some of the most corrupt countries in the world, including Angola and Somalia, committed to fighting against what they called a plague. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the fight will not be easy because, he says, corruption fights back. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Addis Ababa.

(SOUNDBITE OF IKEBE SHAKEDOWN'S "SHE'S KNOCKING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.