The African Union (AU) summit officially began on Sunday in the Rwandan capital of Kigali and were attended by several African leaders, including President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who participated in the official closed session prior to the summit’s official launch.
During the closed session, the African leaders discussed several issues including plans for African integration, completing negotiations regarding an African free trade zone, as well as enabling African women and improving their conditions, among other issues.
During the summit meeting, African leaders reportedly approved a plan that enables the continent to fund AU activities and cease dependence on donors. Peace-keeping operations are currently funded by donors from United Nations organisations.
Al-Sisi held several bilateral meetings with his African counterparts in order to enhance relations and discuss peace and stability on the continent, as well as to foster ties with several countries, including Sudan and Somalia.
Ibrahim Mehleb, Al-Sisi’s aide for strategic and national projects, accompanied him to Rwanda as a member of the Egyptian presidential delegation. Mehleb said that Egypt puts Africa as a priority in the field of infrastructure and construction, following the good reputation Egypt has gained through its major experience in the construction field.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid told Daily News Egypt that the ties between Egypt and other African countries are strong, and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has had no effect whatsoever on relations between Egypt and other countries on the continent.
“There are several agreements between Egypt and other African countries in many fields, Egypt is adhering to its stance on the GERD though,” Abou Zaid said.
Egypt’s ambassador to Rwanda Namira Negm said in a statement that Egypt’s participation in the summit will develop Egyptian-Rwandan political and economic relations and also help to combat regional and international challenges. Al-Sisi is the first Egyptian president to visit Rwanda. Negm called on Egyptian companies to take advantage of the available opportunities in the Rwandan market following the president’s visit.
Egypt’s participation in the AU summit, a few days following its participation in the Nile Basin initiative in Uganda, comes as a step to revive Egyptian-African relations which have been tense due to the Entebbe agreement—an agreement that Egypt rejected as it deprives Egypt and Sudan from large quantities of water.
This recent participation in the Nile Basin meeting came after Egypt had previously boycotted it, following the signing of the Entebbe agreement in 2010. This agreement encouraged Ethiopia to start building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). However, Egypt adhered to its stance of not signing the agreement during the meeting.
At the same time as Egypt’s attempts to revive its relations with Africa again, Israel was doing just the same. Earlier this month, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited four African countries including Rwanda and Uganda. It was the first visit by any Israeli prime minister since 1987. During Netanyahu’s visit, he addressed many issues with the African side. He also delved into the Nile water issue as well as the GERD crisis and supported the Ethiopian plan to develop its water resources, saying that Ethiopia is heading in the right direction.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has notably strained ties between Africa and Israel; however, Netanyahu decided to foster relations again in what he described as a fresh focus on improving ties with African nations.
Egyptian-African relations reached their lowest in 2013 when former president Mohamed Morsi said in a meeting that Egypt could use force against Ethiopia and intervene in its affairs if they insisted on building the GERD.
This meeting was attended by several political figures and was supposed to remain secretive. However, Morsi’s comments to Ethiopia—as well as his severe criticism of Sudan’s stance on the issue—ended up being aired to his astonishment, causing uproar across the continent.
During a visit of the former president Hosni Mubarak in 1999, he was targeted in an assassination attempt in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. This failed assassination caused further tension for Egyptian-African relations despite several attempts by former General Secretary of the Arab League Botros Ghaly to enhance cooperation with African countries.
In the 1960s, former president Gamal Abdel Nasser had the most prominent and notable role in enhancing relations with Africa as he established the African Union institution.