African Union leaders call for continent to have bigger role on international stage
Leaders gathered at an African Union (AU) summit called on Saturday for the continent to foster unity and have a bigger role on the international stage.
The call for unity comes amid signs the bloc is struggling to forge a coordinated response to challenges from coups to COVID-19.
The AU, formed 20 years ago to foster regional cooperation, has taken little decisive action in the face of six coups or attempted coups in Africa over the past 18 months, but the power grabs were high on the summit agenda.
AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat told leaders at the opening ceremony that the security situation in Africa required the bloc to take a new approach and called for "more active inter-African solidarity".
Differences between members over the bloc's relationship with Israel broke into the open at the ceremony.
Faki defended his decision last year to unilaterally accept Israel's request for observer status at the AU, a step that bolsters Israeli ties with the organisation.
South Africa, where the ruling party strongly backs the Palestinian cause, has criticised that move.
Along with Nigeria, Algeria and a Southern African regional bloc, South Africa is pushing for Israel's status to be revoked, according to an internal memo.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who spoke at Saturday's ceremony, called for Israel's observer status to be withdrawn.
"It is actually a reward that encourages Israel to continue violating international treaties," he said.