The African Union (AU) has granted the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) an observer status at its headquarters in Addis Ababa. This comes following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has been signed by the two bodies recently.

The President of SECAM, Most Rev. Gabriel Mbilingi initialed for SECAM while the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the AU, Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi signed for the AU.

The MOU was also signed in line with Article 5 and 22 of the AU’s Constitutive Act as well as the AU’s Assembly decision to engage Civil Society Orgainsations (CSO) and the establishment of the Economic and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) for the AU. On the part of SECAM it was based on the fact that SECAM promotes human dignity, integral human and social development, capacity building, dialogue and fraternal relations among people of different creeds, the common good through good governance, social justice, peace and human security and integrity.

According to the MOU the two parties (AU & SECAM) will among other objectives a) consult one another and prepare programmes for cooperation; b) invite each other to attend and send observers to meetings of their respective organs on matters of mutual interest in line with their respective rules and procedures; c) cooperate in order to attain their specific objectives, at national, continental and international levels, and promote, social and economic aspirations of their members; d) cooperate in the field of training, capacity building, seminars, and the dissemination of reports.

Regarding financial matters, the two bodies will endeavor to seek funding for carrying out joint activities for the benefit of the entire continent of Africa.

The AU and SECAM have also agreed to develop an efficient and effective Social Communications network within the continent in order to achieve the objectives of the two organisations.

The governing principles of the memo are based on international law.

It must be put on record that the signing of the MoU was expedited after a courtesy visit of His Eminence Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel (Archbishop of Addis Ababa and Chairman of AMECEA) to AUC Chairperson H.E. Dr. Dlamini Nkozasana Zuma. Past and present Presidents and Staff of SECAM have also played a great role in the process leading to its signing.

Regarding the signing of the MoU between SECAM-AUC, His Eminence stressed the intention of the Church in Africa to contribute to the continental development endeavor, more specifically Africa Agenda 2063 and Post-2015 SDGs. The current status of the signing of the MoU and other initiatives of SECAM were further explained to AUC Chairperson by Mr. Berhanu Tamene, SECAM-AU Liaison Officer.

The AUC Chairperson appreciated the visit of the Cardinal and the commendable work of the Church on the African continent for example in the areas of poverty alleviation, health and education particularly for the marginalised. The Chairperson noted that poverty does not know any religion and that’s what the Catholic Church is doing by reaching out to those in need regardless of their religion, race and political orientation or affiliation.

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