Friday, February 6, 2009




By Juma Kwayera
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Kenya shot down an ambitious proposal to form a united African government.

Kenya said it preferred a gradual transformation into a political federation that takes into account the many conflicts and natural disasters ravaging the continent.

Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya, who briefed The Standard on the proceedings on Monday, said the plenary session at which the media were locked out, was characterised by drama, with Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi declaring himself Africa’s ‘King of Kings’ to the chagrin of the other 28 presidents attending the 12th Ordinary Summit of the African Union. Gaddafi has assembled tribal kings from all over Africa in what is perceived by other AU member States as his push to have him declared Africa’s president.

"Gaddafi, who spoke for one hour, wants the union government formed immediately and himself installed as chief executive. He went as far as asking the meeting to allow one of the kings to address the gathering," said Oparanya.

President Kibaki (left) and other African Heads of State follow proceedings during the opening ceremony of the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: PPS

According to the minister, President Yoweri Museveni took to the podium to warn Ugandan kings against such a move, saying the plan would stall as result of weak economies and political instability among member states.

‘Kings of kings’

"Museveni told off Gaddafi, arguing that kingdoms were abolished long ago and Africa recognises Gaddafi as the president of Libya only and not ‘king of kings’. This was the general mood in the conference," said Oparanya.

South Africa and East Africa Community backed Kenya’s position.

The countries prefer gradual and systematic implementation of the proposal for a union government.

Among the countries that spoke on Monday, only Benin, Senegal and Gambia backed Libya.

Ghana, on its part, said a union government was possible in a generation or two, further pouring cold water on an idea that has caught the imagination of mainly Francophone countries.

Other sources told The Standard that the summit had adopted, in principle, a resolution to form a union government but was divided on what to do with the administrative unit, the African Union Commission (AUC), which is proposed as the executive arm of the government.

If adopted, the decision reached after long hours of deliberations by the 28 presidents, means Kenya’s Erastus Mwencha will become the union’s second-in-command as executive vice-president of Mr Jean Ping, who will be elevated to the position of executive president of the 12 year-old


Oparanya said there was controversy on the functions of the Cabinet as they would overlap with or usurp those of national governments.

‘Forum of Sultans’

The proposal says AU commissioners would automatically become Cabinet ministers headed by a president and vice-president.

"We are yet to reach consensus about the size and mandate of the Cabinet. The only proposal that seems not to enjoy support is the one about each of the 53 member States contributing a minister. It would be a burden to most economies," he said.

The proposal to transform AUC into the executive wing of the AU dealt a devastating blow to Gaddafi, who since the union government for Africa was mooted in Sirte, Libya, in 1999, has been pushing for a continental government with him as president.

Gaddafi, who succeeded outgoing chairman, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, arrived in the Ethiopian capital in characteristic flamboyance, having brought a collection of kings from around Africa called a ‘Forum of Sultans’, to push his agenda. It is this forum that proclaimed him Africa’s ‘King of Kings’ early this week.

Infrastructure, financial crisis, and regional security and safety issues were discussed during the summit.