Thursday August 25 2011

African leaders skip Somalia fundraiser as $351m raised

By Argaw Ashine

Almost all invited heads of state were absent from the African Union's fundraiser here for the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa, despite the bloc having pushed back the event by three weeks in order to get more high level attendance.

Only host Meles Zenawi, AU chairman and Equatorial Guinea President, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and the President of worst-hit Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, attended the Thursday event at the UN's compound in Addis Ababa that raised $351m in pledges and donations.

The Ugandan embassy here had also indicated that President Yoweri Museveni would attend the event but he was also a no-show. Rwanda sent its prime minister, Bernard Makuza while most other countries were represented by their ambassadors.

Mr Museveni is however expected for Friday's AU Libyan crisis meeting which would bring together 15 heads of state meeting of the bloc's Peace and Security Council, the organ responsible for effecting decisions agreed on by the organisation.

Only about half of the 53 member countries showed up, raising $51.7 million while the African Development Bank gave $300 million.

The AU, which has already donated $500m from its own budget, had hoped to raise at least $60 million from African countries in addition to pledges from non-member countries.

Some $1.4 billion of the $2.4 billion that the UN estimates is needed to help hunger victims in the horn of Africa region has already been pledged.

An estimated 12.5 million people need urgent food aid, mainly in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

South Africa and Nigeria were Thursday expected to contribute the largest amount, but gave $1.3 million and $2 million respectively. By contrast, Algeria gave $10 million while Angola donated $5 million.

Rwanda and Tanzania gave $100,000 and $200,000 respectively, while Uganda was quiet. Kenya and Ethiopia were categorised as recipient nations.

The new nation of South Sudan contributed $1 million while northern neighbour Sudan gave $100,000.

Turkey had earlier announced it would donate $175 million long-term while the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has pledged to raise $350 million.

China recently promised an extra $55 million in addition to an earlier pledge of $14 million.

Many western countries attended the event but did not announce any new pledges. AU chief Jean Ping could not hide his dissatisfaction with Western donors.

"They came here to see how the AU is able to raise money and I hope next time they will come with their own pledge," he said.

Western charity groups are reportedly hesitant to donate to the AU due to its perceived weak capacity to manage funds and a lack of efficiency in humanitarian work.

Mr Ping charged that western nations preferred to operate through their favourite western-affiliated NGO's and through UN agencies mainly controlled by Western nations.

"Our expectation was very modest and now we have gotten a good amount of funding from fellow Africans," he said.

The fund raising campaign under the motto "One voice-one Africa" is the first ever of its type in the AU's history.

The bloc has also launched a media campaign to raise awareness on the issue.