Wednesday, July 04, 2007

African Union Summit Ends in Ghana Without Timetable for Integration

ACCRA 4 July 2007 Sapa-AFP


An African Union summit devoted to integration ended on Tuesday without agreement on a firm timetable on the establishment of a government for the continent after deep division emerged among leaders.

They instead commissioned four studies which will be presented to a committee of heads of state "who will make appropriate recommendations to the next ordinary session of our assembly" expected in January, Ghana's President John Kufuor said at a closing ceremony after the three-day summit in Accra.

Despite agreement on creating what has been called a United States of Africa, the summit exposed major differences over the desired pace of change, with Libya's Moamer Kadhafi leading the push for a union government, complete with a foreign and defence minister, to be in place by the start of next year.

Others, such as Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua argued against a fast-track approach, saying integration should be best reached by first concentrating on regional cooperation.

Asked about the lack of a timetable in the final declaration, Kufuor said that it was not a revolutionary process.

"Africa shall evolve. It's not a revolution we are invoking so we cannot give you a timeline," he told journalists.

"We are not going to copy any (other union) that you may know like the United States of America or EU but something that is tailor-made for us and will suit our continent."

One of the studies commissioned by the summit will focus on the "the contents of the union government concept and its relations with national governments" while another will examine such a government's "domains of competence and the impact of its establishment on sovereignty" of states.

The other two will concentrate on the "elaboration of a road map and timeframe for establishing the union government" and on how such a project would be funded.

The summit had been due to wrap up at 1 pm (1300 GMT) but divisions over the pace of change meant that Kufuor did not deliver the final declaration until more than 10 hours later.

The push for a union government reflected a belief among some states that the current African Union commission was failing to deliver, with even commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare acknowledging that the body's powers were ill-defined.

However leaders such as South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, who launched the AU at a summit he hosted in Durban in 2002, wanted to give the organisation more time to mature rather than be completely overhauled.

Konare admitted the discussions had not been straightforward with diplomatic sources saying that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, an ally of Kadhafi, at one stage threatening to begin his own fast-track process with a select group of mainly west African states.

"We have all agreed that our common and final goal is the United States of Africa. The debate was not easy," Konare told AFP.

"An audit has to be done to clarify some of the concepts because there is a lot of confusion."

The idea that Africa could be an unstoppable force for good by
uniting was first promoted by Ghana's founding father Kwame Nkrumah and the summit in Accra coincides with the 50th anniversary of the country's independence - the first African nation to free itself from Western colonialism.

The leaders in their statement emphasised that they still regarded Nkrumah's vision as their ultimate goal.

"We are convinced that the ultimate goal of the African Union is the United States of Africa with a union government as envisaged by the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (the AU's forerunner) and, in particular, its visionary leader, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

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