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RIYADH: Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the Republic of Djibouti, intends to stand for election to the African Union Commission.  

The commission is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Its main functions are to represent the AU and defend its interests under the authority and mandate of the assembly and executive council.

The minister said that the main objectives of the commission are to promote integration, economic and social development, peace, security and human rights on the continent. It also aims to strengthen continental and international cooperation.

Tradition dictates that the president of the commission should be elected for a renewable four-year term, and should obviously be African, especially as the next session will be chaired by the East African Community, which includes Djibouti among its members.

The diplomat believes that winning these elections will contribute greatly to strengthening integration between the countries of the continent, as well as to reinforcing African relations with various other geographical groups, given the international and regional acceptance and respect enjoyed by Djibouti thanks to its balanced foreign policy.

Youssouf said he had been encouraged to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming elections by the respect and diplomatic appreciation that Djibouti possesses, highlighting also his long personal experience in the diplomatic field as an ambassador and then as minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation since 2005, and his in-depth knowledge of the work of the AU.

He said that a good knowledge of continental affairs is essential to occupy such an important position, adding that such an organization needs experienced leaders and diplomats to effectively promote continental and international cooperation given the continent’s current circumstances.

“The only thing we know for sure today is that the next president will come from an East African country. It will then be up to the member states to decide on the day of the vote,” he said.

Youssouf said that if elected, he will focus, in the interests of the African people, on three important areas: strengthening cooperation and economic integration between the countries of the continent; developing continental and international cooperation; and cooperation with international and regional organizations such as the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League.

In early January, the Somaliland region signed an agreement with Ethiopia granting it a maritime opening to the Gulf of Aden. This treaty led to a political crisis between Ethiopia and neighboring Somalia, which promptly cancelled the memorandum, calling it illegal.  

Youssouf said Djibouti currently chairs the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and that Somalia and Ethiopia are members, along with other countries in the region, which gives it an additional responsibility in mediating between the two. He said that settlement efforts are continuing with Djibouti and Kenya mediating, with hopes that the two parties will reach an agreement soon.

He added that Djibouti, through its current presidency of IGAD, is very interested in seeing diplomatic relations between Somalia and Ethiopia return to what they were before the signing of the MoU.

Youssouf maintains that other crises in the world have distracted attention from Africa’s bloodiest conflict in Sudan, calling it the most forgotten crisis, especially when it comes to refugees and population displacement. He said that over 6.5 million Sudanese have been forced to leave their homes, with over a third of them displaced outside the country, and that the proliferation of ethnically-based militias in the current conflict is equally alarming.

As Sudan is a founding member of IGAD, he said Djibouti is making intense and continuous efforts in coordination with the other member states and the international community, notably the US and Saudi Arabia, to find a solution to the ongoing conflict in this brotherly country.

He also revealed that his country had already received representatives of the parties responsible for the crisis in Sudan to listen to their points of view and their vision for a solution. It should be noted that all have affirmed their desire to put an end to the war, and hope that these efforts will lead to a permanent and unconditional ceasefire, Youssouf said.

Recently, attacks on ships in the Red Sea have intensified, targeting vessels and disrupting this most important maritime passage. Youssouf said Djibouti is following these developments with great concern, specifying that the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, overlooked by Djibouti, is considered an international passage of extreme importance from a political and economic point of view.

He confirmed that any breach of security in this area has global repercussions, given its role as a vital artery for international trade, and called for solutions to be found to the various crises in the region, so that everyone can enjoy peace and security.

With regard to the war on Gaza, Youssouf urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and put an end to the Israeli campaign which has cost the lives of over 34,000 people, as well as the resulting displacement and famine threatening the lives of millions of children.

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