President Paul Kagame has reminded Europe that it is Africa’s ‘permanent’ neighbour, and as a result, the two should always work together to solve security and migrants issues.
“Europe and Africa are permanent neighbours, and have a shared understanding of numerous key interests; security, migration, environment, trade and investment,” President Kagame said Wednesday while addressing the African Union Summit in Abidjan – Côte d’Ivoire.
Last week, Rwanda announced it will provide shelter and transport to thousands of African migrants trapped and sold as slaves in Libya.
Kagame, who led an African Union Institutional reform exercise after it was accorded to him by fellow heads of State, told the Summit that one of the ongoing reform processes is a new partnership with Europe.
To prove this, Kagame said, “a test of our collaboration and our humanity lies clearly before us, with the unfolding tragedy of African migrants in Libya, and in similar situations elsewhere.”
“We must act together,” Kagame told the summit attended by European Union officials as well as Antonio Gutteres – Secretary General of the United Nations.
Many European countries have keept a deaf ear to call for action on African migrants that flock boats through Libya-Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Following Rwanda’s decision to accommodate the migrants, African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said such a humane act by Rwanda should serve as a lesson to other countries on the continent.
Meanwhile, about the AU reforms, Kagame said, “represents a landmark opening to strengthen partnership between Europe and Africa.”
According to Kagame, a more decisive and self-sufficient African Union will mean more favourable and reliable external partnerships for everyone involved.
“After all, why would anyone want to work with a not so organised or inefficient partner?” He asked. The President said that continued cooperation and understanding from European Union is important in the success of this effort.
Francine Muyumba, the President of Panafrican Youth Union challenged heads of State and government to ‘move from speeches and dialogues’ and find practical solutions to issues affecting youth by creating jobs.
“As 60% of the African population is under the age of 25, we want concrete actions, entrepreneurship and strengthening economic relations aimed at creating jobs for young people. Jobs for African youth will fight illegal migration and keep young Africans on the continent,” she said.
But during his speech, Kagame expressed AU concern to put the youth before everything under the ongoing AU reforms.
“It is no accident that the institutional reform puts youth engagement and participation at the centre,” Kagame said.
For President Kagame, “Guaranteeing opportunity, safety, and voice to young people of both Europe and Africa, is the best defence of our shared values, and our common future.”
“This gathering of Europe and Africa takes place at a time when we are all looking to consolidate the unity of our respective regions, and also collaborate more effectively, as work continues toward a post-Cotonou agreement,” Kagame added.
Signed in 2000, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) – EU Partnership Agreement, signed in Cotonou was concluded for a 20-year period. It is the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU.
The President said that the institutional reform of the African Union, currently underway, “aims to make our organisation more focused, effective, and financially sustainable.”
He added, “the reform decision expresses collective determination of African leaders to accelerate progress towards African Union’s founding ambitions.”
Kagame said that as the summit begins, “these reforms are both necessary and urgent. The forces reshaping the global economic and security environment mean that Africa’s future increasingly depends on quality of cooperation within our own continent.”
Kagame also highlighted “critically, our responsibility to mobilise resources to pay for important programs that benefit our people, while alleviating the burden on our partners,” are urgently needed.
As a result, a robust implementation mechanism has been put in place, at both political and technical levels, to maintain momentum, he added.
According to Kagame, the process is characterised by flexibility in accommodating specific needs of member states, while maintaining fidelity to core principles and outcomes, and ownership of the organisation’s activities.
“The critical role already played by the regional economic communities will be enhanced by a clear division of labour, and improved coordination with the African Union Commission. In short, the institutional reform is undoubtedly moving forward, and it is going to make a positive difference,” Kagame said.
The AU-EU Summits of Heads of States and Governments are organized every three years to monitor developments in the implementation of mutual commitments by both groups of stakeholders.
The past four Summits took place in Egypt (2000), Portugal (2007), Libya (2010) and Belgium (2014).
This year’s 5th AU-EU 2-day Summit (29-30 November) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire is themed “Investing in youth for a sustainable future”.
During the summit, participants will share views with leaders of both continents, including the President of the African Union, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.