/ 7 July 2008

AU Commission chief hospitalised at Japan summit

African Union Commission chief Jean Ping was rushed to hospital on Monday in Japan where he was attending a summit with the Group of Eight (G8) powers on the plight of the continent, officials said.

Ping, a veteran diplomat from Gabon who assumed his post earlier this year, was suffering from exhaustion but his life was not in danger, diplomats said.

“Mr Ping is out of danger after a minor and passing illness that is absolutely not serious,” El-Ghassim Wane, a spokesperson for the AU, said in Addis Ababa.

“As it’s late in Japan, doctors preferred to take him in for observation,” another source close to the AU Commission said.

An African diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Ping was suffering from exhaustion.

“For the moment, it’s nothing serious but Mr Ping needs to rest for a few days to undergo medical checkups,” the diplomat said.

Ping was rushed from the summit venue — the mountain resort town of Toyako — to the closest major city of Sapporo, 150km north-east.

“We set up a group of people in charge of taking care of him, and I presume that he is receiving medical treatment by now,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

Leaders from 23 nations are meeting this week at a hilltop luxury hotel overlooking scenic Lake Toya, a location selected in part because of its security.

Ping was taking part in a special session on Monday on Africa, in which the continent’s leaders urged rich nations to stay true to their aid promises and help the developing world cope with soaring oil and food prices.

Ping was joined in the talks by the leaders of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, whose President Jakaya Kikwete, is the AU’s current president.

The G8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Ping was chosen as the African Union Commission’s chief in February and has immediately had to confront a host of crises, including controversial elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya, bloodshed in Darfur and a coup in the Comoros.

In March, the AU backed its first-ever military mission to remove a renegade leader, ousting the rebel leader of the Comoros island of Anjouan.

The AU was founded in 2002 with inspiration from the European Union, but critics say it has lacked the funds and political drive to take effective action on the continent’s flashpoints.

It intervened in 2004 in Darfur, but has relinquished leadership to the United Nations to form a joint peacekeeping force. — AFP