African Union embarks on weeklong 50th year celebration

Updated 23 May 2013

African Union embarks on weeklong 50th year celebration

ADDIS ABABA: African nations this week mark the 50th year since the founding of a continentwide organization that spearheaded efforts to liberate Africa from colonial masters. Now leaders want to map out the next 50 years of political and economic integration.
Konjit Sinegiorgis was a young diplomat tasked with distributing documents to the assembled heads of state when the founding congress of the Organization of African Unity was held in May 1963. Sinegiorgis said the OAU “brilliantly” accomplished its primary task.
“Its primary mandate was to liberate Africa from the shackles of colonialism and apartheid. I think in that regard it has done brilliantly,” said Konjit, now Ethiopia’s ambassador to the African Union, the successor to the OAU.
The weeklong 50-year celebrations culminate Saturday in the Ethiopian capital where African leaders will be joined by foreign dignitaries including United States Secretary of State John Kerry. African leaders will also consider Agenda 2063, a blueprint they say will bring socio-economic and political transformation to the continent.
Kerry, who recently expressed concerns over China’s growing influence in Africa, is expected to be joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special representative, Vice Premier Wang Yang, at the celebrations in the AU headquarters, a building whose $200 million constriction costs were paid by Beijing.
The 53-member African Union, which began in 2002, has been trying to emerge as a force for stability on a continent regularly troubled by violence, conflicts and coups.
One key achievement of the OAU and AU “has been to set standards and norms that we are now using at the continental level,” said Erastus Mwencha, deputy chair of the AU. “We are now talking of having norms such as a protocol on governance, on elections and so forth.”
As the AU strives to make peaceful transfers of power across Africa the norm, it often sanctions coup leaders and suspends membership of states. But it also often fails to mobilize resource to enforce its decisions. The AU is also a long way from its founders’ dream of a united Africa. The continent sees a huge disparity in the economic and political conditions of its nations.
South Africa is an economic power, while citizens in countries like Somalia, Sudan, Congo and Chad suffer from warfare and poverty. A coalition of over 120 civil society groups from across Africa and the Middle East on Wednesday issued a warning about conflicts in Sudan. The groups called on the AU to support a bolder approach to peace there.
But the continent also boasts nine of the world’s 15 fastest growing economies, Rwanda President Paul Kagame wrote last weekend in The Wall Street Journal, and the AU head says the continent’s future is brighter than its past.
“If you look at the last 10 years, Africa has been growing economically,” said AU chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “There has been quite a lot of development even in terms of infrastructure, not enough yet, but countries have been working hard.”
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa says Africa’s medium-term growth prospects remain strong, at 4.8 percent in 2013 and a projected 5.1 percent in 2014.
“Yet this impressive growth story has not translated into economic diversification, commensurate jobs or faster social development,” said the U.N. in its latest report. “Most African economies still depend heavily on commodity production and exports, with too little value addition and few forward and backward linkages to other sectors of the economy.”
Improvements are being seen in education, child and maternal mortality rates, and gender equality. As Africans leaders meet later this week, the 50-year strategic plan is expected to be high on the agenda. Dlamini-Zuma said the decades-long quest for Africa’s political and economic integration are to be answered by the blueprint.
Energizing and galvanizing the people of the continent toward an African Renaissance is the aim of the week’s celebrations, Dlamini-Zuma said over the weekend.
As Africa looks to write plans for the future, activists are calling for more efforts to respect its citizens’ rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to Kerry to urge him to include the issue of press freedom in his discussions at the AU Summit.


US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

Updated 28 January 2020

US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

  • The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service
  • Two former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people

The attorney for two former contractors suing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, has asked a Florida Federal Court judge to dismiss their lawsuit so they can re-file the claims before a different Federal court in Massachusetts.

The former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people. The original lawsuit had Sheikh Khaled as the principle defendant but on Nov. 5, 2019 it was expanded to include race car company Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which Sheikh Khaled owns.

The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service.

Failing to serve a defendant or a defendant’s business assets can result in the lawsuit being thrown out by a judge in the American judicial system.

The expansion of the lawsuit worked. After ignoring the lawsuit for more than seven months, lawyers for both Sheikh Khaled and Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, filed responses. They asked the Federal Court on Jan. 2 this year to dismiss the Pittard/Allende lawsuit, arguing Florida lacked Federal jurisdiction over the case.

According to Bloomberg Markets, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, although it has an office in Florida.

“After the Pittard case complaint was amended, several individuals bravely stepped forward to share their stories and experiences with the defendants in the Pittard case,” said Rebecca Castaneda, the attorney for security professional Matthew Pittard and paramedic Matthew Allende, who are seeking $33 million in damages.

“In light of the information that they have provided, and the new plaintiffs’ claims and causes of actions against the defendants and others, we have requested that the Pittard case be dismissed from the Middle District of Florida.

“The cases of Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende will be supplemented with additional legal claims and information that has been obtained and re-filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the District of Massachusetts.”

Sheikh Khaled’s attorney, Alejandro Soto, of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels and Soto, PLLC, argued in their motion to dismiss in January that Sheikh Khaled had no legal presence in Florida and that Florida’s Federal courts had no jurisdiction over his actions.

“While the amended complaint invokes Florida law, it otherwise fails to allege any facts supporting Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with the state,” Soto said in his Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“By all accounts — including plaintiffs’— Sheikh Khaled is a citizen of the state of Qatar whose domicile and primary residence — both during the time period alleged in the amended complaint and now — have always been in Qatar.

“Moreover, the amended complaint does not allege a single fact suggesting that any of the alleged conduct giving rise to this case occurred in or arose from Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with Florida. Indeed, the only alleged connection that Florida has with this case is plaintiff Matthew Pittard’s alleged residence in it.”

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban, PLLC law firm, argued that Sheikh Khaled was not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed Florida lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Contrary to this settled jurisdictional jurisprudence, plaintiffs failed to plead any facts to establish personal jurisdiction or even provide a factual framework under which this court could analyse personal jurisdiction,” Reyes and Rosquete said in their Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“Indeed, other than an unsupported conclusory allegation in a single paragraph, plaintiffs include no jurisdictional facts that connect Al-Anabi to Florida. Plaintiffs do not allege that they were injured in Florida, nor do they allege any facts regarding Al-Anabi’s contacts with the state.

“The amended complaint is devoid of facts that could — even when analysed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs — show that the purported injury or other conduct alleged even occurred in Florida,” Reyes and Rosquete added.

Attorneys Reyes, Rosquete and Soto all failed to respond to repeated inquiries for comment on their dismissal filings.

Pittard and Allende alleged in the lawsuit, originally filed on July 23, 2019 before Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber, that Sheikh Khaled ordered them to kill two individuals who posted negative and embarrassing comments about the sheikh on social media.

According to Castaneda, Sheikh Khaled ordered the killing of a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the sheikh with claims he had compromising photos and videos of the sheikh.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda said.

In another case, Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled allegedly ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of the sheikh’s wife. Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled feared the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, Emir Al-Thani, and Qatar were in an international row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.

Pittard and Allende allege they were threatened at gunpoint by an angry Sheikh Khaled when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder the two individuals he suspected had sullied his social reputation. The lawsuit claims Sheikh Khaled's threats against Pittard and Allende continued to escalate.