An Israeli diplomat was expelled from the assembly of the African Union (AU) on Saturday, in the middle of a summit of the continental organization devoted in particular to the deadly violence in the Sahel and in the DRC, which concern "deeply" the UN.
Israel denounced this expulsion, accusing Iran of being behind this "serious" measure with the complicity of Algeria and South Africa, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
By 2022, the AU had failed to close its discussions on Israel's controversial accreditation as an observer country. Algeria and South Africa in particular argued against. The AU has not indicated whether the issue will be discussed at the summit this year.
But, according to a video posted online, security personnel escorted Sharon Bar-li, Israel's Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for Africa, out of the annual summit that opened in Addis Ababa on Saturday.
Ebba Kalondo, spokesman for the chairman of the AU Commission, told AFP that a person had been "asked to leave the premises" because he was not invited to this meeting. The AU had extended a one-time invitation to Israel's ambassador to the AU, Aleli Admasu, and that invitation could not be used by anyone else, she said.
“It is regrettable that the person in question abused this favour,” Ms. Kalondo concluded.
For a spokesman for Israeli diplomacy, this expulsion remains "serious" because Ms. Bar-li had "valid accreditation as an observer".
“It is sad to see the African Union hostage to a small number of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa, driven by hatred and controlled by Iran,” he said. at AFP.
Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, retorted that Israel should "substantiate its accusations".
During the assembly, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the continent "needs action for peace", referring in particular to the situation in the Sahel and in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ahead of the summit, exchanges took place on Friday on the situation in the east of the DRC plagued by armed groups, in the presence in particular of the Congolese head of state Félix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
At the meeting, leaders of the East African Community (EAC), made up of seven countries, called for a "withdrawal of all armed groups" by March 30.
On Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, host of the summit, praised before the assembly the peace agreement signed, under the aegis of the AU, between his government and the rebels of the Tigray region. , which allowed, according to Mr. Abiy, to "silence the guns".
Another topic of discussion: the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlec), which should bring together 1.4 billion people and become the world's largest market in terms of population.
The summit aims to encourage the "acceleration" of the Zlec, intended to promote trade within the continent and attract investors.
At present, intra-African trade represents only 15% of the continent's total trade.
According to the World Bank, by 2035, the agreement would create 18 million additional jobs and "could help lift up to 50 million people out of extreme poverty". Its combined GDP stands at $3.4 trillion, according to the UN.
But differences remain on the continent, particularly on the timing of tariff reductions.
Mr. Guterres said Zlec “represents a truly transformative path towards creating jobs and new sources of prosperity for Africans”.
He also announced that the UN would release $250 million to "support some of the most vulnerable people" in the world, including those at risk of starvation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.
In addition, Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean of around 850,000 inhabitants, took over the rotating presidency of the AU, following Macky Sall, the Senegalese head of state.
"Our organization has just proven to the world its conviction that all countries have the same rights", welcomed the 64-year-old head of state, who pleaded for a "total cancellation" of the African debt.
Finally, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, three countries ruled by soldiers who emerged from coups, following which they were suspended from the AU, sent delegations to Addis Ababa to plead for the lifting of these suspensions.
On Friday, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, said that the institution's "peace and security" council would meet, on an unspecified date, to decide on a possible lifting of the suspension of these three countries. On Saturday, Mr. Faki said that "these sanctions do not seem to produce the expected results".
02/18/2023 15:40:00 - Addis Ababa (AFP) - © 2023 AFP