Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No agreement over Africa unity plan

A general view shows the official opening session of the 12th African Union Summit of Heads of States in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa February 2, 2009. Photo/REUTERS 

By HENRY OWUOR in ADDIS ABABA

The African Union met until the wee hours today but failed to agree on the creation of a new body to move the continent towards a single government.

It all unravelled when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stormed out of the meeting room just after 2 am this morning and a few minutes later, all the leaders filed out.

Asked why Colonel Gaddafi had stormed out, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said Gaddafi ‘’may have felt unwell’’ and that is the reason he left the meeting.

Today’s deadlock followed a deal on Sunday under which the AU was to create an “African Union Authority” with a president, a vice-president and secretaries covering various portfolios such as Foreign Affairs, climate change, poverty eradication, research and pandemics such as Aids.

As he walked out of the meeting, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula said: “We will have a report by nine in the morning’’.

But, by two pm today, the leaders were still meeting.

Sources at the meeting told the Nation that Colonel Gaddafi, who is chairman of the AU stormed out because he did not agree with his colleagues on three main issues:

  • The naming of the new authority to run Africa.
  • Col Gaddafi demanded that he should be given the title: “king of kings’’ but his colleagues refused.
  • There was no agreement on the nature of portfolios to be created.

Earlier as the summit opened, Colonel Gaddafi and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni clashed over the use of traditional leaders by the Libyan leader to push his agenda for the creation of a United States of Africa.

At a debate that saw many interjections by Mr Museveni, the Ugandan leader warned that he would arrest any traditional leader in his country who claimed to speak for Col Gaddafi.

The main dispute over creation of the new continental body currently is at the technical level as on Sunday, the AU agreed to convert the its commission into the ‘’African Union Authority. ‘’

The dispute now is over the powers that the new authority should enjoy.

At another level, there are questions over the powers that the members of the AU are ready to cede to the new authority.

What is also emerging is that Colonel Gaddafi, who replaced Tanzanian President as the new chairman of the AU on Monday, is riding roughshod over other members of the AU at its debates.

According to sources who briefed the Nation in Addis, only two leaders have been taking Col Gaddafi to task in the debate over the new body to be created by the AU.

The two leaders are Mr Museveni and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

What is happening currently is that many AU leaders are either on their way out or are too new and as such can hardly take on a leader who has been in power for close to 40 years..

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