Leaders deliberate on establishing AU Authority

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Addis Ababa - African leaders have decided to extend the 12th African Union Heads of State and Government Summit by a day to ensure all important matters receive attention and declarations can be made on the establishment of the AU Authority.

The summit being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was due to end on Tuesday but will now end on Wednesday.

African leaders on Monday agreed on transforming the African Union (AU) Commission into the AU Authority as a compromise step toward eventually forming a continent-wide government.

Briefing journalists earlier this week AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said the new authority would have a broader mandate than the existing commission. "We are creating an institution with a bigger mandate, with bigger capacities, which moves us toward the goal of the union government.

However, a marathon closed door meeting ended at 3am on Wednesday after leaders failed to agree on its establishment.

A unified continent, which would give Africa stronger bargaining power at international forums, has been a dream of several generations of pan-Africanists. However, many African leaders were reluctant to relinquish any of their sovereignty to a new government, while some favour strengthening regional institutions before creating a continent-wide system.

The idea of creating a future union government for Africa, which is believed would boost Africa's international standing, has been discussed for several years among the region's leaders.

Elected as the Chairperson of the AU at the beginning of the week, President Muammar Gaddafi made it clear he would pursue his vision of a union government for Africa, despite reluctance from many members.

He told fellow summit leaders that his project to create a united continental government would be approved at the next meeting in July unless there was a majority against it. He had paraded seven traditional kings from all over Africa, who he claimed supported his plans for a union government for Africa.

However, President Gaddafi walked out of the closed door meetings in the early hours of Wednesday.

Asked to comment on the decision of the meeting, AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said: "We could not reach a decision on government of unity."

Launched in July 2007, at the 9th AU Summit in Accra, Ghana, the concept has followed a tortuous path punctuated by adjustments, redefinitions and compromises before reaching a consensus on the rational integration of the geographical zones of the continent.

The review of the proposed union government initiative has been postponed several times, as African leaders agreed each time on an additional period of reflection in order to better hone the project and "reduce the uncertainty angles."

The audit report indicates that differences have emerged on its feasibility, including the areas of competence, the role of the RECs and the impact of the union government on the respective sovereignty of the 53 member states.

From the developments it shows that the issue of a union government is not whether one should be put in place, but how and when it should happen and what is necessary to clarify the concept and content of such a government.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, however, will not be staying for further deliberations on Wednesday due to commitments, including his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Thabo Masebe told BuaNews that South Africa would be represented by South African Ambassador to Ethiopia Major-General Lungile C Pepani.