Tuesday, February 3, 2009



February 2 2009

The African Union has made remarkable progress towards its grand goal of a single government for the continent. After 12 hours of what it termed as the “Grand debate’’, the AU spelt out its plans for a United States of Africa.

After the marathon talks that started early Monday, AU chairman Jakaya Kikwete emerged told journalists the AU secretariat, currently known as the Commission, will be transformed into a new body known as the “African Union Authority’’ with its own president, vice-president and secretaries covering various jurisdictions.

Soil erosion

The ministers will cover areas such as poverty reduction, free movement of goods and services, interregional commerce, climate change, soil erosion, epidemics and pandemics, research and universities, transnational crime and foreign affairs that will involve developing common positions on international matters.

Mr Kikwete said: “What is going to be the name of each portfolio will be worked out by the African Union Commission but the final decision will be made by the current summit.’’

The new body will be launched at another summit set for July this year. Mr Kikwete added: “We are now moving closer to the dream of the Union government’’.

He added that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supports the new plan, but there were questions raised by the Press over the absence of Colonel Gaddafi at the press conference, while he was the main proponent of fast-tracking plans for a single government.

Early Monday, Col Gaddafi paraded seven traditional kings from all over Africa, who he claimed supported his plans for a United States of Africa.

But Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who supports a gradual move towards a single government, warned that he would arrest those kings from his country who were supporting Col Gaddafi.

With Monday’s decision by the heads of state, it is clear that once more the gradualists shot down Col Gaddafi’s calls for quicker integration.

More power

What will happen now is the establishment of what Mr Kikwete calls the ‘’building blocks for a union government with benchmarks and accelerators towards the ultimate goal, which is the United States of Africa.’’

What was decided by the summit Monday is what the African Union had proposed under its former chairman, Mr Alfa Oumar Konare, that involved giving the commission more power over various jurisdictions.

With the decision Monday, the current AU commission chairman, Mr Jean Ping of Gabon, will become its first president while the deputy chairman, Mr Erastus Mwencha from Kenya will become the vice-president.

But, the final word rests with the July summit at a venue yet to be decided at the current summit, but most likely in Tripoli, Libya since Col Gaddafi is likely to take over as the new AU chairman.

There was a question that Mr Kikwete refused to answer with regard to how the new authority will work in a continent full of authoritarian leaders.

There were also questions over how the new authority will raise funds while currently the AU has many members who have arrears in their contributions.
Mr Kikwete said that the issue of the budget will be decided in December, but the headquarters of the new authority will remain Addis Ababa.

The other issue is a clear timetable for the continent’s movement to the goal of a United States of Africa. Mr Kikwete said the current summit will spell out this new time-table.