African Union must find practical solutions to Africa's problems

President Uhuru Kenyatta joins 50 leaders for the 25th African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa with today’s opening ceremony expected to set the tone for the conference.

The theme of the Summit, 2015 Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063, is expected to open discussions on the realisation of full rights and opportunities for women on the continent, and will resonate well with resolutions of the Third World Conference on Women which Kenya hosted in 1985.

The Heads of State are also expected to discuss a wide range of issues, key among them growing insecurity, immigration, xenophobia, governance and the recent political upheavals in Burundi.

Kenya, like Nigeria which is facing a serious security threat from the Boko Haram terror group, will be sharing its experiences with African countries and counting on their support to counter the now ubiquitous jihadist threat.

The Summit comes at a time the Kenya government has just issued a terror alert, with a warning that the Al-Shabaab could be planning an attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan.

Terrorism will continue to pose a threat to economic prosperity in Africa in the coming years and leaders will have to adapt a united front to tackle it or face the risk being swept up by the violence meted out by a growing band of mostly unemployed youths supported by insurgents from the Middle East.

Many African countries are now realising that terrorism across one border can be easily transferred to neighbouring nations as a result of poorly policed boundaries and grossly under resourced immigration departments. Therefore, to contain the threat, intelligence sharing and cooperation among security agencies will be critical.

Issues of governance will also be tackled at the Summit at a time when Burundi is consumed by political upheavals on the back of an abortive coup that was triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for another term in office, a bid critics says is unconstitutional.

Constitutionalism and a lack of fidelity to the law has been the bane of much of Africa, sparking social upheavals and violence.

This is why leaders at the Summit must candidly address reports of disquiet in some quarters that Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s bid for a third term could trigger fresh tension in a country which was wracked by a bloody civil war that left 800,000 people dead more than two decades ago. Presidents of African countries that are about to transfer power can learn a great deal from the Kenyan experience. Kenya has transferred civilian power two times, learning useful, and sometimes painful, lessons in the process.

There will also be much to learn from the hosts South Africa when issues of immigration and social integration are discussed.

The Summit is being held two months after a wave of violence swept parts of the Rainbow Nation, as African immigrants were attacked by local groups. It also comes at a time hordes of refugees from northern Africa and elsewhere are crossing the Mediterranean in dangerous shipping vessels to seek refuge in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. African leaders must find a way to stem this tide.

Leaders must also tackle the issue of climate change and discuss viable mitigation efforts on the back of failing rains or uncontrolled flooding in much of the continent. Only last month, Nairobi and Mombasa experienced dangerous levels of flooding in homes and on roads as the long rains set it. Although much of the flooding was attributed to poor road construction and the irresponsible blockage of waterways, the effects of changed weather patterns and the attendant torrential rains cannot be discounted.

It is quite clear that there will be a heavy agenda in Johannesburg and African leaders must demonstrate that they can address the problems affecting their people. Otherwise the Summit will be dismissed as just another talking shop for leaders out of touch with reality.

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