AU summit extended amid divisions – BBC

February 4th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

An African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia has been extended to a fourth day amid disagreements on the issue of creating a United States of Africa.

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An African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia has been extended to a fourth day amid disagreements on the issue of creating a United States of Africa.

Many leaders said the proposal by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi would add a layer of bureaucracy that the continent does not need.

But they did agree on changing the name of the AU Commission to AU Authority.

Col Gaddafi had used his inaugural address as rotating head of the AU to push his long-cherished unity project.

The Libyan leader said closer integration between African states should start immediately.

In the long grass?

He envisages a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.

But other African heads of state said the Libyan leader’s plan was not practical.

African leaders said they would study the legal implications of the unity proposal, make a report and meet again in three months time.

In other words, says BBC’s Mark Doyle in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, they are kicking the ball into the long grass to slow it down.

He says the outcome is a political fudge, as no member wishes to alienate the leader of oil-rich Libya.

One participant in the closed-door meeting of the 53-country union said the Libyan leader appeared to admit defeat and laid his head on the table in despair.

Our correspondent says waiting reporters next saw the Libyan leader sweep out of the room accompanied by his protocol man, who had a uniform like that of an airline pilot – but with more gold braid.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said: “He didn’t walk out, he just got tired.”

She denied to the BBC that the outcome was a fudge and said it was a step on the path to a United States of Africa.

Legal implications

Leaving the talks in the early hours of Wednesday, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade said leaders had had a “very rich” discussion that they would resume later in the day.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe appeared upbeat, telling AFP news agency: “A day will be arrived at where there will be a single authority in charge of Africa.”

The BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says changing the name of the AU Commission – which is the administrative branch of the organisation – to the AU Authority sounds like a mere formality and a change of notepaper.

But, she says, it has legal implications as the commission is written into the constitution of the AU.

Our correspondent understands that any amendment to that charter would have to be agreed by two thirds of AU leaders and ratified by their national parliaments.

Before arriving at the summit, Col Gaddafi circulated a letter saying he was coming as the king of the traditional kings of Africa.

Last August, he had a group of 200 traditional leaders name him the “king of kings” of Africa.

The summit’s main agenda – to boost Africa’s energy and transport networks – has been pushed largely to the fringes, weighed down by the grim realities of the global economic downturn.

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