Tuesday, February 3, 2009



Monday, 2nd February, 2009
By Vision reporter

LIBYAN leader Muammar Gadaffi was elected chairman of the African Union on Monday and made clear he would pursue his vision of a United States of Africa despite reluctance from many members.

Resplendent in golden robes and cap and hailed as “king of kings” by traditional African leaders who accompanied him, Gadaffi accepted a gavel from the outgoing chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, at a summit in Ethiopia. The traditional leaders included Uganda’s Omukama of Bunyoro, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru and Toro Queen Mother Best Kemigisa. The summit is attended by President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet.

Gadaffi told the summit 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. The AU normally relies on consensus in reaching decisions.

Gadaffi’s election was treated almost like a coronation by a group of customary African leaders dressed in colourful robes and headgear who accompanied him to the conference hall. “On behalf of the traditional kings, on behalf of all the sultans, on behalf of all the princes, on behalf of all the customary rulers, I want to say thank you to the king of kings who we have now crowned,” declared one of them, King Tossoh Gbaguidi of Benin.

Gadaffi, supported by some AU members like Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, has been pushing for a unity government for years, saying it is the only way to meet the challenges of globalisation, fighting poverty and resolving conflicts without Western interference. But others, led by regional economic powerhouse South Africa, see the idea as a distant and impractical prospect that would infringe the sovereignty of member states, although all 53 members of the AU say they agree with the idea in principle.

The first day of this summit on Sunday again pulled back from accelerating the process. Kikwete told reporters the meeting had agreed to replace the AU Commission with an “authority” rather than an immediate pan-regional government as it had proposed. This would be launched at the next summit in July.

He said this would move it closer to a federal government.

Kikwete said the leaders agreed in principle on a single government but that it was could not be realised at this stage.

Kikwete said the authority would have a President and be mandated to handle issues such as poverty eradication, the free movement of African people, infrastructure development and climate change. The others are epidemic and pandemic management, international trade negotiations, peace and security and foreign affairs.