African leaders wrap up summit

Addis Ababa– African leaders wrapped up a three-day summit Tuesday, calling for action on coups and increasing pressure on Madagascar’s political foes to honour deals meant to end a prolonged crisis.

The newly elected chairman of the 53-member African Union, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, called on his peers to stand against conflicts and toppling of governments.

"We must say ‘never again’ to conflict and war in Africa," said Mutharika, who took the bloc’s leadership from Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, whose controversial stance on the continent’s issues was often at odds with pan-African body.

"We must declare war on unconstitutional change of government on the African soil and resolve to take strong and necessary punitive action against all authors of coup d’etat and those that provide them the means to unseat duly elected governments," Mutharika said.

The AU’s Peace and Security Comissioner Ramtane Lamamra said earlier Tuesday that the bloc had adopted a resolution upping the pressure on Madagascar leader Andry Rajoelina, who seized power in a coup in March and did not attend the summit.

"We have already started getting replies from some of the parties but we are waiting for the response of the party that took the unilateral decisions that have called into question the agreements," Lamamra said.

The AU’s approach to Madagascar was last year typical of internal discord, with Kadhafi breaking from the tough stance of the organisation’s executive regarding the Antananarivo regime.

In a declaration Tuesday, the bloc urged the "illegal regime in Madagascar to desist from attempts to impose unilateral solutions to the crisis."

Rajoelina has spurned power-sharing deals reached in Mozambique and Addis Ababa between him and Marc Ravalomanana, the president he ousted, and two other former presidents.

The AU said these agreements "remain the only legitimate roadmap for a comprehensive solution to the Madagascar crisis and urges a speedy and faithful implementation."

The African leaders also discussed the situation in Sudan, where tension has been escalating in the run-up to a 2011 referendum in which the south is widely expected to choose independence from Khartoum.

Many observers fear that secession in Sudan–Africa’s largest country, bordering nine others–could further destabilize one of the continent’s most volatile regions.

Senegal’s president has been trying to drum up support for the fight against Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, saying the network’s campaign was taking on "new and disturbing" forms.

Abdoulaye Wade appealed to Senegal’s neighbours to join a round table with neighbouring countries to tackle resolve the issue of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

"This desert terrorism is taking new and very disturbing forms… But countries like Senegal, or Mali, can do nothing on their own. It is an international problem. Western powers will have to intervene too," he said in an interview.

On the economic front experts said they see signs of a rebound on the continent.

African Development Bank (AfDB) chief, the Rwandan Donald Kaberuka, expects the continent’s economy to grow by between 4.5 and 5.0 percent this year and by some 6.0 percent in 2011.

"The rebound is already here. In 2010 the AfDB and the World Bank are expecting growth of between 4.5 and 5.0 percent and around 6.0 percent in 2011, thanks notably to exports picking up and to the price of agricultural products such as coffee and cocoa holding up," Kaberuka said on the sidelines of the summit.

"The problems aren’t behind us yet, but we’re starting 2010 on a more optimistic note. Contrary to what we had feared the big donors have respected their commitments towards Africa," he said.

Kaberuka’s forecast is slightly more optimistic than the 4.3 percent growth announced by a top UN official last week at a ministerial meeting ahead of the summit.

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