Reports of African migrants being auctioned as slaves in Libya was one of the low points for African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat as he delivered his 2018 New Year's message.
In a statement, Mahamat said the revelation that desperate migrants were being auctioned as slaves by international criminal networks were "received with shock across the continent and beyond".
"In response, the Commission took a number of steps, including working with the Libyan authorities, as well as the United Nations, the European Union, the International Organization for Migration and the High Commissioner for Refugees, as part of an African Union-led task force, to facilitate and accelerate the voluntary repatriation of migrants," Mahamat said.
"I requested the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to carry out an investigation into the situation and to report as soon as possible. Alongside this, the Commission will also take additional steps to address the underlying drivers of irregular migration."
The AUC chair, who has been in office for nine months, described 2017 as "a particularly eventful year" and said initial results had been encouraging.
"Youth has been at the center of our agenda, as the African Union works to open up opportunities for them in every field," he said. "2017 was the year of Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth. This made it possible to renew our commitments, as African States and institutions, to achieve our targets for young people, including through reducing the proportion of youth unemployment by at least 2 % annually."
He added that by adopting the African Union Demographic Dividend Roadmap, Member States had pledged to open up financial services for young people, promote entrepreneurship, increase investments in health, education, and create spaces for youth civic engagement and political participation.
He also said that the Commission reevaluated the effectiveness of its previous policies and strategies with respect to gender equality and women’s empowerment on the continent. "On this basis, a new gender equality and empowerment strategy has been developed, which ensures better alignment with agenda 2063, places stronger emphasis on tangible results and accountability, and promotes innovative practices."
"Several successful elections were held in Member States. I note, in particular, the peaceful conduct of presidential and representative elections in Liberia. This bears testimony to the commitment of the Liberian people and leaders to sustain peace in their country."
He added that the African Union remains committed to working with the Member States to deliver on the ambitious Agenda 2063 flagship project of Silencing the Guns by 2020. "We all need to rededicate ourselves to ending violence and sustaining peace in our continent, including by bringing to a successful conclusion the ongoing peace processes in Mali and the Central African Republic, ensuring that the elections planned in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2018 take place on time and in a conducive environment, consolidating progress made in Somalia, and ending the threat posed by terrorism in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, and in Horn of Africa.
"It is my earnest hope that the south Sudanese stakeholders will deliver on the commitments made in the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access signed as part of the IGAD-led Revitalization Forum that took place in Addis Ababa in December 2017. The people of South Sudan, who have endured so much pain and suffering, desperately need and deserve peace."
- African News Agency (ANA)