United African govt can not be reached overnight

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cape Town - The establishment of single African Union (AU) government can not be achieved in one giant leap, but will take time.

Director General in the Department of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba on Tuesday gave media a report back following the 12th AU Heads of State and Government Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recently.

"The establishment of a United States of Africa can not be achieved in one giant leap," said Mr Ntsaluba.

While African leaders at the summit agreed that more regional integration was needed to boost Africa's international standing, they could not agree on the establishment of a single AU government as many were reluctant to relinquish any of their sovereignty to a new government.

Many favoured strengthening regional institutions before creating a continent-wide system.

The transformation of the African Union (AU) Commission into the AU Authority, made at the summit, was a step toward eventually forming a continent-wide government.

Dr Ntsaluba said there had been robust debate on the establishment of unity government for Africa, but that the debate had not ended.

He agreed that it was important to move in the direction of establishing regional economic communities and that greater integration of regional economic communities was first necessary.

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who was elected as the Chairperson of the AU at the summit, said he would "continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa". This was despite some African leaders being weary of the concept.

Concerns raised in this regard during the talks at the summit included its feasibility, the areas of competence, the role of the regional economic communities and the impact of the union government on the respective sovereignty of the 53 member states.

"If a continental government is formed, there would have to be a common understanding of democratic principles and governance and it would be important to clarify what values would govern the continent, amongst many other things," said the Director General.

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".

On Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said a single AU government would give Africa greater influence on the international stage.

"A united Africa speaking with a single voice would also be more influential in global affairs. Furthermore the benefits of political and economic integration are evident when we look at the experience of other regions of the world [such as the European Union]," the minister said.