Thursday, February 5, 2009



4th February, 2009


An African Union (AU) summit that had been extended in a bid to resolve a spat over reforming the body ended yesterday after reaching a compromise, participants said.

Stormy debates overnight focused on Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s drive to create a “union government” for all of Africa following his election to lead the bloc for the next year.

A participant said the 53 member states had finally accepted the recommendations of ministers that they be allowed three months to produce a report on strengthening the AU Commission, which is to be renamed the AU Authority

President Yoweri Museveni attended the summit accompanied by the First Lady, Janet.

The next summit in July would decide whether to accept the report, and if approved the new set-up would be ratified by member states from early 2010.

Gadaffi’s call for a “united states of Africa” was given a mixed reception and tensions with the vitriolic Libyan leader were palpable during the summit.

Gadaffi’s drive to create a “union government” for all of Africa had heightened divisions, forcing an extension of a summit Wednesday to resolve the spat.

As the 53 members were meant to wind up their three-day summit, the dispute widened as they debated a report on how to reform the continental body.

Gadaffi walked out of the talks without saying anything, and moments later the other leaders left at around 3:00am with an agreement to resume debate later in the day.

“He understood that he lost, that is why he left like that,” one African diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Publicly, African leaders tried to put a positive spin on it.

“He did not walk out, he just got tired,” Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said.

“We had very important things to discuss. A very rich debate. We will take it up again tomorrow morning to close,” said Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.

The summit had already agreed to expand the mandate of the AU Commission and change its name to the AU Authority, but the details of that change appear to be the focus of the dispute.

South African president Kgalema Motlanthe said in a joint interview that proposals for strengthening the AU would be considered only over the next three months.

During the summit, the tensions with Gadaffi were palpable.

President Museveni proposed turning the AU leadership into a troika, which would mitigate Gadaffi’s influence in a role that already has little real political power.

A troika is any group of three persons or nations acting equally in unison to exert influence or control.

“Africans are polite, but deserve respect,” Museveni told him, according to one participant in the talks.

He then got up, whispered something into Gadaffi’s ear, and tapped him on the shoulder as he left.

A few minutes later, Gaddafi also left, the participant said.

Museveni and the First Lady returned home yesterday and were received at Entebbe International airport by the Vice-President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya.

Gadaffi has long looked at the AU as a way to boost Africa’s international profile, but also to increase his own standing.

Gadaffi seized power in a coup 40 years ago, and his autocratic rule has drawn fierce criticism from rights groups.

Hoping to burnish his standing, he recently had a group of traditional leaders name him the “king of kings” of Africa, and brought an entourage of seven local monarchs with him to the summit.

Yet, differences remain over how the new system would be implemented.

Countries such as Libya advocate immediate unification.

On the other hand, countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya seek gradual integration and seem to have the upper hand at the moment.