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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi elected as new chair of African Union

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has taken over as the new chair of the African Union following a meeting by heads of state from the continent in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa. It is the first time since the AU was founded in 2002 that Egypt assumes the top seat of the body.

Feb 11, 2019 16:00 IST
Egypt's Abdel Fattah El Sisi takes over as new head of African Union

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on February 10, 2019 took over as the chair of the African Union (AU) following a meeting by heads of state from the continent in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa.

The post of AU’s chair rotates annually between the five regions of the continent. The Incoming AU chairman President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to focus on the fight against armed groups on the continent and rebuilding efforts of countries recovering from conflict.

Speaking after his appointment, the Egyptian leader said that terrorism remains a cancer that affects African nations and counter-terrorism requires the identification of those who support and fund it and combating them collectively.

Key Highlights

Egypt’s tenure as chair of the African Union is expected to concentrate more on security and peacekeeping and focus less on financial and administrative reforms.

Under Egypt's leadership the bloc will prioritise mediation and preventive diplomacy as one of the key mechanisms for promoting peace and security on the continent.

The Egyptian President will be taking over from outgoing chair, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who focused on creating an Africa wide free-trade zone during his tenure.

Post his appointment, Amnesty International warned that Sisi’s chairmanship might undermine the African Union's human rights mechanisms.

Amnesty’s concern

According to Amnesty's North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim, during his time in power President Abdel Fattah El Sisi demonstrated shocking contempt for human rights and under his leadership the country underwent a catastrophic decline in rights and freedoms.

Bounaim further stated that there are real fears about the potential impact Sisi’s chairmanship could have on the independence of regional human rights mechanisms and their future engagement with civil society.

The human rights group said Egypt since 2015 orchestrated a sustained political attack against the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the body that aims to monitor African states' human rights records.

A dozen cases alleging serious human rights violations have also been lodged against Egypt at the ACHPR.

Background

It is the first time since the AU was founded in 2002 that Egypt assumes the top seat of the body.

The nation would be taking the helm of the African Union nearly six years after it was suspended from it following a Sisi-led military coup.

Egypt was kicked out of the 55-member pan-African body in 2013 following a military coup that overthrew the country's democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi and brought Sisi to power. The bloc later lifted Egypt's suspension.