African Union: Haiti’s future in Africa ‘a sense of duty’

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Leaders of the African Union will consider the proposal to award Haitians land and naturalization benefits during its annual three-day summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jean Ping, the African Union (AU) chairman has said.

The initiative was put forward by the Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, and has been supported by the presidents of Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Wade also called for a mass adoption program across the continent for children who had been made orphans in the wake of the January 12 disaster.

“It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians who wish to return after the effect of the disaster that ravaged Haiti. What happened to Haiti is a tragedy that transcends borders. We have attachment and links to that country,” Ping said.

The AU commission has opened a special account for Haiti at the African Development Bank, ahead of the plan for a new state- a scheme some have likened to the 19th century creation of the West African state of Liberia for freed US slaves.

“The first black republic in 1804, that carried high the flame of liberation and freedom for the black people and has paid a heavy price for so doing,” Jing added.

The summit to deliberate on this initiative is attended by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. Mr. Ki-Moon thanked the regional body “for reaching out to Haiti in this time of need”.

“The nation of Haiti is an ocean away, yet I know it is close to every African heart. Today the Haitian people are enduring one of the greatest humanitarian challenges in recent years and loss of life on an unimaginable scale,” Mr. Ki-Moon was quoted.

Opening the summit Mr. Ki-moon, urged delegates to make a renewed effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which include reducing poverty, disease and child mortality, ahead of their target date of 2015.

Haiti’s disaster is thought to have killed about 170,000 people and left one million homeless. President Wade urged Senegal and other African states should naturalize any Haitians who sought new nationality.

The African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia will be presided by new leader, president of Malawi Mr. Bingu Wa Mutharika. Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, failed in his attempt to stay on as chairman of the bloc for another year, but promised to fight for a single visa, army and policy.

While AU delegates turn their attention to the quake in Haiti discussions on Sudan and Somalia will also take place.

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