African Union holds summit amid crises over coups and COVID

Heads of state have gathered at the African Union headquarters to kick off a two-day summit as the continent reels from a spate of military coups and the coronavirus pandemic.

The summit starting on Saturday also comes as the 55-member bloc faces pressure to push for a ceasefire in host country Ethiopia, where a 15-month war has killed thousands of people and, the United Nations says, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.

The bloc, formed 20 years ago to promote international cooperation and harmonise member states’ policies, has struggled to address six coups or attempted coups in Africa over the past 18 months, and the power grabs are high on the summit agenda.

Four member states have been suspended by the AU’s Peace and Security Council since mid-2021 because of unconstitutional changes of government, most recently Burkina Faso where soldiers overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kabore last month.Heads of state from continental heavyweight Nigeria, new AU chair Senegal and Kenya are due to attend, although absentees will include some major figures, like Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

Addressing African foreign ministers this week, AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat denounced a “worrying resurgence of military coups”.

But the AU has been accused of an inconsistent response to the takeovers, notably by not suspending Chad after a military council took over following the death of longtime President Idriss Deby Itno on the battlefield last April.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow said elections have become problematic for many African countries.

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