President John Evans Atta Mills on Friday afternoon arrived in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, to attend the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).

President Mills, accompanied by senior Government officials, is expected to play key roles during the session of the Heads of State and Government of the 54-nation continental body.

President Mills was received at the Bole International Airport, by Mr Ahmed Chebib, the Ethiopian State Minister of Trade. Two 10 – year old girls, Mesekerem Belete and Mekides Negasi presented him with a bouquet of flowers.

There was the presence of Ghanaians, led by Mr Kobena Quartey, Ghana’s Ambassador to welcome the President.

During the session for the leaders, President Mills would be the Guest of Honour at the unveiling of the statue of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana at the forecourt of the new AU building which would be inaugurated on Saturday.

Professor Francis Nkrumah and Madam Samia Nkrumah, Chairperson of Convention People’s Party, both children of Dr Nkrumah, who President Mills invited to the ceremony are already in Addis Ababa to participate in the ceremony.

Dr Nkrumah who played a leading role in the African liberation struggle, was a founding member of the predecessor of the AU, the Organisation of African Unityas well as the Pan Africanist Movement

President Mills is also expected to deliver a keynote address, which is on the theme: “Boosting Intra African Trade.”

President Alassane Ouatarra of La Cote d’Ivoire and Mr Marti Ahtisaari former Prime Minister of Finland and Nobel Peace Laureate have requested to hold bilateral talks with President Mills on the sidelines of the summit.

High on the agenda at the summit would be the voting to elect new leaders to the continental body.

While the AU typically promotes regional diversity in its leadership, some observers have opined that it would be better to favour countries that have best adhered to AU protocols.

The Heads of State and Government would elect a new chairperson, likely to come from West Africa, to head the continental body for a one-year term.

The new chair is usually selected on a rotating regional schedule, with leaders from North, South, East and West Africa getting a fair shot at the top seat.

Meanwhile, a tough diplomatic battle is taking place at the Union ahead of the Presidential session to elect the Chairperson of the AU Commission,

The AU Commission Chairperson Dr Jean Ping, who is seeking re-election, is facing South Africa’s Interior Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is vying on a platform of change to the continental body, which her country blames for failing to prevent conflicts.

South Africa has proposed to delay the elections of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson during the AU’s ministerial meeting on 26 January, but a counter proposal to postpone the election of eight other commissioners has also been tabled.

Ghana withdrew her candidature for the post of Political Affairs Commissioner in favour of Aisha Laraba Abudulai, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea.

From Benjamin Mensah, GNA Special  Correspondent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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