Saturday, January 21, 2006

African Union Meeting

Well, the long-heralded annual summit meeting of the African Union has begun here in Khartoum. So far I haven't seen or heard much reference to it on CNN but there certainly is a lot of buzz about it here in Khartoum. The meeting has brought 32 heads of state into Khartoum from virtually every country in Africa. The Khartoum government has built 40 big villas down along the banks of the Nile to serve as headquarters for these dignitaries. I heard from one of my friends whose father is the Sudanese Ambassador to Libya that the villa for Ghaddafi has a huge lawn/garden on which Ghaddafi has had his infamous tent placed for him to sleep in and hold audiences in. At least there's a bit of comic relief for the AU folks.

It's hard for anyone who hasn't experienced the Khartoum Airport to imagine but I was told by an official at the US Embassy that the airport would shut down each time a head of state arrived. Flights in and out would be halted and the traffic around the airport would be stopped until each motorcade -- 32 of them! -- had left the area. Now, Khartoum's traffic is chaotic at the best of times.

Security in Khartoum is actually pretty good but they have definitely notched it up a bit this week. The government announced last evening that the next three days would be "holidays" for government workers. Many private companies are closing as well. We're staying open here at the school. The traffic was minimal today.....I'm sure everyone is enjoying this sudden gift of three days off work.

With subjects like HIV/AIDS, Darfur, refugees, women's rights, education and many economic concerns, one would like to think that this AU Summit might make some difference on this huge continent of Africa. But I'm afraid that I remain cynical enough to think that it's more about posturing than it is about producing any real solutions. The thought of 32 enormously wealthy (at least in comparison to the rest of the continent's population) individuals -- most of them men -- going out of their way to impress each other is a bit more than I want to think about on this quiet Sunday morning.


At 1/23/2006 5:25 PM, Anonymous JAC said...

Even in the "4th world", they put an emphasis on style over substance. Seems more proof of Lord Acton's words: "... and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
NOTE: "Parade" magazine (inserted in Sunday newspapers) did an article on 1/22/06 on the "World's Worst Dictators". The President of Sudan was #1. Many (maybe most) on list were from Africa.

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