Reuters Africa

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Africa faces a serious threat from al Qaeda and its allies trying to set up a sanctuary in northern Mali, African leaders said on Saturday as they pondered political and military strategies aimed at reuniting the divided West African state.

The leaders meeting at the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa are seeking to resolve messy aftermaths of military coups this year in Mali and Guinea-Bissau which have put blots on the continent’s democratic credentials after advances in stability and governance in recent years.

They are also seeking to reconcile feuding neighbours Sudan and South Sudan after the latter’s independence last year split what used to be Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country.

But one factor distracting the African heads of state from the continent’s serious security and development challenges is a bruising contest over who should head the AU Commission, which steers the regional diplomatic body.

The standoff, which has broadly split Africa’s French- and English-speaking blocs into two camps, pits South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma against incumbent Jean Ping from Gabon and risks dominating the weekend summit in Addis Ababa.

At a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council on Saturday, the presidents worked to flesh out a plan to deal with Mali, where al Qaeda-linked local and foreign jihadists have seized control of the largely desert north after hijacking a rebellion by secular Tuareg separatists earlier this year.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, chairing the security council, condemned what he called “the intention of terrorist groups to create a sanctuary in northern Mali”.  Read more…