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10 years of cooperation: mission to AU celebrates anniversary.

The U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU), which marked its 10th anniversary Dec. 22, 2016, is a small team based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that represents U.S. interests in the 55-member AU.

The AU, the largest multilateral organization (other than the U.N.) to which the United States has an accredited ambassador, arose from the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Formed in 1963, the OAU sought to build self-reliance and solidarity among African states. When the OAU gave way to the African Union in 2001, the new institution enshrined a willingness to intervene to solve and prevent crises.

There are currently several AU peacekeeping operations underway. They include the Africa Mission in Somalia, the Multinational Joint Task Force to counter Boko Haram and Regional Cooperation Initiative-Regional Task Force for the Elimination of the Lord's Resistance Army. Recently, when Gambia's former president refused to accept electoral defeat, the AU made clear its support for the democratic process, paving the way for a transition of power.

But the AU is about much more than crises. "With every country on the continent a member, the AU is a critical venue where the continent debates and works for consensus on African and global issues, including many that come before the U.N. and its Security Council, which counts three rotating African members," observed Ambassador to the AU Mary Beth Leonard.

Colocated with the U.S. Mission to Ethiopia, with which it shares a single management platform, USAU has expanded in 10 years from a team of six to a staff of 30, including representatives from five U.S. agencies who help support best practices in areas ranging from youth empowerment to agriculture. "Working at USAU provides a unique view on Africa," remarked Taisha Jones, USAID's representative to the AU. "While USAU is a relatively small mission, it is one of the busiest posts where I have worked to coordinate and advance U.S. policy towards Africa."

USAU Deputy Chief of Mission Jessica Davis Ba said, "Every day is different--we may be delivering remarks at the AU Peace and Security Council, collaborating with AU colleagues to shape interventions on the election crisis in The Gambia, coordinating policy responses with our international partners on South Sudan, or building awareness and support for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)."

The U.S.-AU relationship culminates in an annual High Level Dialogue (HLD), which is hosted at the secretary of state level. The U.S. delegation to the most recent HLD, held in December, was led by Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Bruce Wharton, representing the first visit by an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Africa in two years.

One of the newest elements of the U.S.-AU relationship is the U.S. support to the African Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is also a singular example of U.S.-China cooperation in Africa. The AU CDC arose out of the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, a potentially devastating epidemic to which the AU responded by deploying nearly 1,000 medical doctors, nurses and military personnel to affected areas. The U.S. was a strong strategic and financial supporter of the African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), the AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission launched to address this health crisis.

"USAU was instrumental in galvanizing support and coordinating efforts on the ground," noted Col. Martha Robins, senior military advisor to USAU. The United States, through the U.S. CDC, supported the African CDC's creation by installing an emergency operations center at the AU, and funding 10 African epidemiologists and two U.S. CDC technical advisors to staff the commitment to helping the AU prevent, detect and respond to health challenges.

As Africa's future largely depends on the transformation of its agricultural sector, USAU works closely with the AU to offer increased public and private investment in agriculture, bolstering food security and economic development. Michael Francom, the Department of Agriculture s liaison to the AU, said the United States is "helping put Africa on a path to eliminate hunger, reduce poverty and ensure equitable economic growth across the continent."

Collective African efforts for peace and security have come a long way since the OAU's 1963 founding. The AU is now the most influential and important multilateral organization in Africa, and many of its goals support and advance key U.S. strategic priorities there. On its 10th anniversary, USAU is committed to its partnership with the AU to realize our shared vision of a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous Africa.

By Brandon J. Jackson, political-public diplomacy officer
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Title Annotation:African Union
Author:Jackson, Brandon J.
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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