By: Barnabas Thondhlana
Africa must respect the lives of its people, and as a continent, there should be no tolerance for leadership that has no regard for people’s lives.
These were the words of outgoing chairperson of the African Union Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma when giving welcoming remarks at the ongoing 29th Session of the Executive Council of the African Union, underway in Kigali, Rwanda.
“It is with grave concern that we start this council as over the past few days we see the resurgence of the conflict of the civil war in South Sudan, after more than two years of talks,” Dr Zuma said.
Hardly more than two months after the formation of a government of national unity, the belligerents are back in the trenches, and “the people of South Sudan, instead of celebrating five years of independence, once again are =barricaded in their homes or must flee like sheep before the wolves”.
In Zimbabwe, citizens have taken to the streets to register their anger at the growing hardships they face daily, in the face of outright gluttony by the ruling elite who have no concern over the welfare of the millions in the country.
Government has responded with a heavy-handedness, ignoring the plight of the citizens and instead burying its head in the sand accusing foreign governments of being behind the growing cries of discontent and calls for change in governing strategies.
“Governments and leadership are there to protect the vulnerable, to serve the people, not to prey on them and be the cause of their suffering. The continent cannot stand by and witness the suffering that keep on being inflicted on the children, women, men and young people,…on our fellow Africans,” Dr Zuma said.
She also stated that the AU continues to count the cost of conflict management and peace operations as the largest single budget item of the African Union, resources that should be spent on promoting the African skills revolution, on supporting young entrepreneurs and women farmers.
“We made a solemn pledge that we shall not bequeath wars and violent conflicts to future generations of Africans, and to silence the guns by 2020. We must all do more to honour this pledge,” she said.
Dr Zuma called on Africa to resolutely focus on the Agenda 2063 priorities such as building energy, rail, road and ICT infrastructure, to power and connect homes and industries; expanding agriculture and agro-processing; investing in the health, skills and education of African people, especially children, and young men and women, and building inclusive, democratic and tolerant societies.
“We must put the African people first,” she said.
MDC-T Executive member, Nelson Chamisa, also noted that it is dangerous for government to be fixated upon arresting people than arresting problems. “Those who point out problems can never be the problem,” he said.