Addis Ababa: African Union leaders on Saturday met for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the bloc, stressing on unity and intensified efforts to render the continent free from poverty, conflict and social inequalities.
"While our founders met for the formation of the OAU at the dawn of the independence period 50 years ago, it is fitting that we are meeting here today at a time when Africa is rising," African Union Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said addressing the gathering.
Stressing that unity was needed to "permanently silence the guns" in the continent plagued with violence and conflicts, the leaders said the event would boost the movement to support pan-Africanism.
"When we talk about African solutions to African problems, it is because we know that we can only permanently silence the guns if we act in solidarity and unity," said AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, adding that the continent had a "bright future".
She, however, said, "the self-reliance and economic independence that our founders spoke of remains a bit elusive and social inequalities remain."
Desalegn said leaders should seek to "create a continent free from poverty and conflict, and an Africa whose citizens enjoy a middle income status."
India represented by Vice President Hamid Ansari is among ten select partners of AU which have been invited for the golden jubilee Summit. The others are the US, the European Union, France, Brazil, Russia, China, Jamaica, Palestine and the UAE.
The gathering is being attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese President XI Jingping`s special representative, Vice Premier Wang Yang.
China, which had been making inroads into African economy, was praised by Desalegn who expressed his "deepest appreciation" to Beijing "for investing billions... To assist our infrastructure endeavours."
The 54-member African Union (AU) evolved in 2002 from the Organisation of African Unity which had its origins in the struggle for decolonisation and was founded in Addis Ababa in 1963. The only African country not part of the AU is Morocco.