For ‘slow’ Ebola re­sponse

AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son has been ac­cused of be­ing lethar­gic when it comes to deal­ing with con­ti­nen­tal crises and may not be able to get a sec­ond term

CityPress - - News - CARIEN DU PLESSIS carien.du­p­lessis@city­press.co.za

African Union (AU) Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma this week em­barked on a very pub­lic tour of three coun­tries af­fected by the Ebola cri­sis, amid crit­i­cism of the AU’s slow re­sponse. Even though the epi­demic was de­clared in Guinea seven months ago, it is the first time that Dlamini-Zuma, her­self a med­i­cal doc­tor, has em­barked on such a mis­sion. There is un­hap­pi­ness with the way she has been do­ing her work, an ex­pert with close links to the AU said.

“Crit­ics in the AU have been say­ing it is time [for Dlamini-Zuma] to re­deem her­self,” the ex­pert said.

Dlamini-Zuma has been slow to re­spond, among other things, to se­cu­rity crises on the con­ti­nent, pre­fer­ring in­stead to fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment and anti-poverty work done by the con­ti­nen­tal body.

“Many of us sup­ported her elec­tion, so we are try­ing to make the best of it, but it doesn’t look like she will get a sec­ond term,” the ex­pert said.

Dlamini-Zuma, whose term at the AU ends in 2016, is punted as a pos­si­ble – and very popular – can­di­date to suc­ceed her ex-hus­band Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as ANC pres­i­dent in 2017.

When asked dur­ing an in­ter­view in Au­gust whether she was in­ter­ested in stand­ing for ANC pres­i­dent or whether she would re­main at the AU, she said she hadn’t de­cided yet.

Dlamini-Zuma was the most popular ANC lead­ers at the party’s con­fer­ence in Man­gaung in 2012, re­ceiv­ing more votes than Zuma to serve on the party’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

This week, as the of­fi­cial Ebola death toll was recorded as 4 877, Dlamini-Zuma vis­ited Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

The lat­ter hasn’t yet recorded any Ebola cases but it plays an im­por­tant role in the Ebola-af­fected re­gion.

Dlamini-Zuma was ac­com­pa­nied by Car­los Lopes, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the UN Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa, and the pres­i­dent of the African De­vel­op­ment Bank, Don­ald Kaberuka.

Part of the rea­son for the visit was to ad­vise that har­bours and air­ports re­main open for travel and trade de­spite the virus, but it was also to show sol­i­dar­ity with the af­fected coun­tries, the AU said.

The AU took a decision to send hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to the af­fected coun­tries only on Au­gust 19, almost two weeks after the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion de­clared Ebola an “in­ter­na­tional pub­lic health emer­gency”.

In re­sponse to ques­tions at a panel dis­cus­sion dur­ing the US-Africa Lead­ers’ Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton early in Au­gust, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said African gov­ern­ments had the virus un­der con­trol.

Tan­za­nian pres­i­dent Jakaya Kik­wete, when asked what Africa was do­ing about Ebola, said the epi­demic was in west Africa and, con­trary to per­cep­tions, the whole con­ti­nent was not suf­fer­ing from the dis­ease.

Alain Aimé Nyamitwe, Bu­rundi’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the AU Com­mis­sion, this week told the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies’ Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Re­port on­line that the Ebola epi­demic was sham­ing Africa.

“Africa is yet to be seen to take ac­tion. Where are we? We have made a decision to de­ploy a hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion. How many coun­tries re­sponded to the call?” Nyamitwe said. Teething prob­lems were partly to blame for the AU’s slow re­sponse. This is the first time the AU has dis­patched a hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion in terms of ar­ti­cle 6 of the AU Char­ter.

When the team of 28 health work­ers was fi­nally dis­patched, their ef­forts to reach af­fected coun­tries were ham­pered by anti-Ebola travel re­stric­tions im­posed by AU mem­ber states – re­stric­tions which the AU has pub­licly crit­i­cised.

Even though there are moves in the AU to be more self-suf­fi­cient and to find “African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems”, its in­ter­ven­tion team is funded largely from out­side the con­ti­nent.

The US has pledged $10 mil­lion (R109 mil­lion), the Euro­pean Union $5 mil­lion and China $2 mil­lion.

While coun­tries like the US said they would do­nate $1 bil­lion in to­tal, South Africa has so far set aside R32.5 mil­lion to fight the deadly virus inside and out­side the coun­try. It aims to raise R250 mil­lion in to­tal from lo­cal business.

The AU had not com­mented at the time of go­ing to press.

do­nated $25 mil­lion

Com­piled Ey Carien du Plessis

PhOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETh SE­JAKE

David Nabarro: This out­break is mov­ing ahead of ef­forts to con­trol it IN THE HOT SEAT Nkosazana DlaminiZuma

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