Ethiopian legendary leader Emperor Haile Selassie I has been recognized at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) heads of State and government summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A huge statue was unveiled Sunday evening at the AU headquarters at sideline event attended by departing AU chair President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
Incoming AU chair, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was also at the ceremony. Nana Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana stood alongside the three leaders to cut the ribbon off the statue.
Selassie was Ethiopian regent from 1916 to 1930 and emperor from 1930 to 1974. Considered the Rastafarian messiah, Selassie is worshipped by millions around the world. He is also credited with helping many African countries gain independence from western colonisation. Ethiopia was never colonised.
Meanwhile, inside closed doors where the leaders sat before the plenary session, DR Congo’s new leader Etienne Tshesekedi was also voted second chair of the AU.
He was elected in December last year in a hotly contested poll in his country. But today he got rousing recognition when it was announce in the plenary that he had gotten a role.
The highlight of the event was the elaborate hand over of AU leadership instruments by Kagame to Egyptian counterpart. There was thunderous applause as the two exchanged the tools – bringing to end an eventful year for the continental body.
President Sisi will work with South African Cyril Ramaphosa as the first vice chair and Congo’s Tshisekedi.
On the executive, President Kagame will remain representing the East Africa region while Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou will be representing the West Africa subregion.
The chairman of the Africa Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, could not hold his emotions after a year working very closely with Kagame.
“Mr President, dear Brother [Kagame], I would like to say how happy I was to work under your presidency. Your formidable leadership, matched only by your modesty and steadfast uprightness,” said Faki Mahamat.
UN Secretary-General Antonnio Guterress and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were guests of the AU and also addressed the leaders.
President Paul Kagame’s leadership of the bloc focused on administrative and institutional reforms. The AU will now be able to fund much of its peacekeeping and political agenda.
“I would be remiss if I did not particularly single out the comfort, joy, and support that I got from the Africa Union commission Chair and commissioners for working together as a team,” said Kagame in his handover speech.
Kagame added that with their full and unqualified support, there is no doubt that Sisi will take the African Union beyond where he left.
It is expected President Sisi will focus his efforts on post-war reconstruction, peacekeeping and Security in general as they relate to this year’s summit theme: “Refugees, Returnees and the Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”.
“However much it is not easy to reach the AU goal of silencing the guns, I will do my best for the best of the Union” Sisi said.
He announced that Egypt would convene a peace and development forum before the end of 2019.