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Regional Integration

African Union urges Sudan, South Sudan leaders to reach deal

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The African Union urged the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan, who will meet here Sunday, to strike a deal on issues still to be settled following the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.

Outgoing AU Commission chief Jean Ping "looks forward to the summit between President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan," the African Union said.

"He would like to encourage both presidents... to reach agreement on the outstanding issues in the post-secession relations between their two countries."

The African Union has been mediating in the talks between the two Sudans in the Ethiopian capital. The talks resumed in early September and have focused on oil, border issues and the disputed Abyei area.

"Throughout its engagement, the AU... has maintained the view that solutions to the challenges at hand lie with the Sudanese people themselves," the African Union statement said.

Kiir arrived early Saturday evening in the Ethiopian capital, Atif Kiir, the spokesman for the South Sudanese delegation at the talks, told AFP.

"President Kiir has arrived ahead of the summit meeting with President Bashir tomorrow," the spokesman said.

Sudan's official news agency SUNA said Bashir would leave for the talks on Sunday.

The European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton welcomed news of the Addis Ababa meeting and urged "both governments to conclude a comprehensive agreement on all outstanding issues".

In a statement Friday she said the two neighbours had already made significant progress, notably on oil and security issues.

"It is now for the two governments to build on the progress achieved ... and agree on the few remaining issues, including a safe demilitarised border zone," she said.

"This summit is a unique opportunity to set their countries on the path to peace and prosperity, based on the concept of two viable states."

Barnaba Marial, the South Sudanese government spokesman, told journalists Friday that the common border, which was closed to most vehicles in June of last year, has now reopened and air traffic resumed.

"Yes, the flights have now opened Juba-Khartoum, Khartoum-Juba," he said.

The two neighbours agreed late last month to open their border in a bid to foster cooperation and to encourage business.

The two countries fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of a wider war and leading to a UN Security Council resolution ordering a ceasefire.

The UN also ordered the settlement of unresolved issues under AU mediation.

A previous round of talks in early August led to a breakthrough deal on export fees: landlocked Juba will pay the fees to Khartoum to ship its oil through northern pipelines. The details however still need to be finalised.

At independence, South Sudan took with it two-thirds of the region's oil, though processing and export facilities remained in the North.

In January, the South shut off oil production -- damaging the economies of both countries -- after accusing Sudan of stealing its oil.

Officials have said that even once a final deal is reached on oil it could then take from three to six months before exports could resume.

The AU set today as the deadline for this round of talks after the two sides failed to reach a comprehensive agreement last month, missing a UN deadline of August 2.


Gambia's President Jammeh halts executions amid outcry

The Gambian president has suspended the execution of prisoners on death row, amid an international outcry.

In a statement, Yahya Jammeh said he was responding to "numerous appeals".

Nine prisoners have been executed since his vow in August to clear death row. Another 37 inmates remain on death row.

The executions were the first in The Gambia, a popular tourist destination, in 27 years, and human rights groups say it was mostly political prisoners who died.

Mr Jammeh's statement said the suspension of the executions followed numerous appeals at home and abroad, but warned that the halt could be temporary.

"What happens next will be dictated by either declining violent crime rate, in which case the moratorium will be indefinite, or an increase in violent crime rate, in which case the moratorium will be lifted automatically," the statement said, according to Reuters news agency.

The executions were opposed by the African Union as well as human rights groups.

Benin, which currently holds the chair of the African Union, sent its foreign minister to The Gambia to warn Mr Jammeh not to carry out any executions.

On Friday, a Gambian opposition political grouping told the BBC it was planning to create a government in exile in neighbouring Senegal within days.

Its leader, Sheikh Sidia Bayo said he was spurred to create the new group by the recent execution of some death-row prisoners.

The aim of the National Transitional Council of The Gambia (CNTG) was to see the end of President Yahya Jammeh's "dictatorship", he said.

The death penalty was abolished when former President Dawda Jawara led the country but was reinstated shortly after Mr Jammeh seized power in 1994.


World Bank chief pledges support for Ivory Coast, urges true peace

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday expressed support for Ivory Coast in his first visit to the West African nation and said he was confident the country could successfully rebuild from post-election violence as long as there was lasting peace.

"I am here to express my strong strong support for this country, its people, and the leadership," Kim told a joint news conference with President Alassane Ouattara.

"We need Cote Ivoire to be successful and as long as Ivorians choose peace ... we are certain that Cote Ivoire will have great success in the future."

Ouattara welcomed the World Bank's continued backing for his country and without elaborating said he had asked Kim, who took the helm of the global development lender two months ago, to substantially increase funding to Ivory Coast. The country is plagued by high youth unemployment, increased poverty and huge infrastructure needs.

World Bank funding to the world's biggest cocoa-growing nation is currently around $1 billion and any increase in lending would come from the Bank's fund for the world's 81 poorest countries, the International Development Association.

Ouattara said economic growth in Ivory Coast would likely be above eight percent this year and reach double digits by 2014. He said he hoped his country would reach emerging market status by 2020, alongside India, Brazil and South Africa.

"I have great hope for this country," Kim told reporters. "All around me today I could see the dividends of peace and I want to congratulate everybody in this country for being committed to a peaceful path forward," he added.

Ivory Coast has started showing signs of revival since the end of violence last year, which erupted after former President Laurent Gbagbo disputed a late 2010 election result that showed he had lost to Ouattara.

The violence, which killed 3,000 people, continued even after Gbagbo was captured and transferred to The Hague to stand trail at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

Now the world's top cocoa grower is struggling to cope with a spate of armed raids this month on police and military installations, raising fears of renewed instability.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kim visited a World Bank-funded youth training center, where students include ex-combatants.

Kim again expressed hope for lasting peace.

"You have been through difficult times and I know that you are now just in the process of recovering," he said. "What you are doing now - getting an education, learning skills - this is critically important not just for the future of your country but for the entire region."

During his first day on the trip, Kim focused on hearing about ways in which the World Bank can help Ivory Coast rebuild and address the challenge of high unemployment, especially among youths.

The youth training center is an example of how the World Bank and the private sector can support government efforts to develop skills training for unemployed youths.

An estimated 60 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 35 are unemployed or underemployed in the Ivory Coast. One in two young adults in these age groups is underemployed.

The Chamber of Commerce estimates that the post election crisis caused the additional loss of between 80,000 and 120,000 jobs in the private sector.

Kim, the former president of Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school in New Hampshire, reflected on his personal story as the son of immigrant parents from South Korea who moved to the United States when he was 5 and how he benefited from a good education.

He shared high fives with students as he posed for a group photograph, wearing a white sports cap given to him by the training center.

"Born in a very poor country I was committed to my studies and now I'm the president of the World Bank. All of you too can be president of the World Bank," he joked with students.


African Union calls Angolan polls free and fair

Luanda, Angola - The Electoral Observation Mission of the African Union (AU) has described Friday's general elections in Angola free, fair, transparent and credible. According to the head of the AU Electoral Observation Mission, former Cape Verdean president Pedro Pires, the elections were held according to the Durban Declaration on the Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, adopted by the AU in July 2012.

The Mission also congratulated the Angolan people, political parties and coalitions for their political maturity, while hailing the security forces and all other stakeholders for the peaceful conduct of the elections.

Meanwhile, the AU mission has urged political parties and candidates to work together in order to consolidate peace and democracy in Angola.

The AU mission comprised officials from 24 African countries: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Swaziland, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

According to the provisional results announced by Angola's electoral commission, the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has won 74 per cent of the votes cast, with over 70 per cent of votes counted.


Côte d'Ivoire: ECOWAS artisans in search of business opportunities

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Abidjan - The Commissioner General of the International Days of Abidjan crafts Ali Coulibaly in Abidjan said Sunday that the artisans countries of the Economic Community of the States of Africa 's' (ECOWAS) are looking for business opportunities into subregional levels.

Coulibaly who was speaking on the occasion of the closing days reported the need to find a wider market for handicrafts artisans to allow the sub-region to enhance their income.

"C' is in this context that these kinds of activities are initiated to create a 'meetings and exchanges between artisans in the Ivory Coast and those of the ECOWAS region and strengthen ties of cooperation between the countries of the region in terms of culture and crafts, "said Coulibaly.

For one, the crafts TODAY is a major component of social and economic development of States because of its ability to provide people with goods and services to satisfy their basic needs.

International Days of the crafts of Abidjan have gathered for a week around 80 exhibitors from seven countries in 'West' Africa, and more than 5000 visitors.

According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INS), the crafts sector is contributing 12% to GDP and employs more than a 'quarter of the labor force in Côte d'Ivoire.

African Diplomacy Staff