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Leaders track progress on ambitious plan for a conflict-free Africa

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African leaders on Sunday held talks to review an ambitious plan for a conflict-free Africa as violent unrest escalates in parts of the continent.

The Africa Union (AU) adopted in 2013 a plan to silence guns on the continent by the year 2020.

Four years later the leaders signed off on a roadmap for practical implementation of the plan.

On Sunday, heads of states and governments from across the continent met virtually to assess progress.

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“As we gather here, we all know that the guns are not yet silent,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the current chair of the rotating AU presidency, said in his opening remarks.

“In some areas peace has been achieved, but considerable challenges still confront us.”

“There are shortcomings in implementation that must be addressed urgently,” he admitted.

Ramaphosa condemned acts of terrorism and violent extremism ravaging the Sahel region and northern Mozambique.

The South African leader also expressed concern about the situation in the Western Sahara where trouble flared up recently between Morocco and the Polisario rebels.

A picture taken through a car window shows Ethiopian Amhara militia fighters, that combat alongside federal and regional forces against northern region of Tigray, Gondar, Ethiopia, November 09, 2020. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP)
A picture taken through a car window shows Ethiopian Amhara militia fighters, that combat alongside federal and regional forces against northern region of Tigray, Gondar, Ethiopia, November 09, 2020. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP)

But he was silent on the fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region which has claimed thousands of lives, according to the International Crisis Group think tank, and displaced tens of thousands from their homes, across the border into Sudan.

Ethiopia is home to the AU’s headquarters.

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While lauding small victories, Ramaphosa reminded peers that the grand continental trade pact which kicks into action next month, would remain elusive as long as the continent was not stable.

On Saturday, the leaders officially chose January 1 as the date to begin implementing the mammoth African Continental Free Trade Area.

Styled as the biggest free-trade accord in the world in terms of population, it aims to create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc for 1.3 billion people.

It was supposed to take effect on July 1, but the timeline slipped owing to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the slow pace of negotiations.

“Its success cannot be separated from a stable and conducive business environment that is able to attract foreign direct investment,” Ramaphosa said.