Sunday, February 03, 2008

African Union Sets Up Team to Steer Continental Government Formation

AU sets up new team to steer union govt formation

From Caesar Zvayi in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

THE African Union has set up a committee of 10 heads of state and government, the current AU chairperson and his predecessor to look at ways of coming up with a Union government.

The issue has been elevated from ministerial level to that of heads of state and government after the 10-member ministerial committee set up at the 9th Ordinary Session in Accra, Ghana, hit a snag on a number of areas of concern to member states.

Sources close to deliberations in the closed session said the ministerial committee presented its progress report to the assembly yesterday and asked for more time to resolve areas of divergence.

While the assembly concurred that there was need for more time, it was decided that the issue should be elevated to the level of heads of state and government.

To this end, a 12-member committee, comprising 10 heads of state and government — two from each of the five regions, plus the AU chairman and his predecessor — has been set up.

"This 12-member committee is going to look at the issue of the union government and make specific recommendations to summit in July," said a source.

There were four areas of divergence, the source said.

The first is to do with the timing of the union government that has spawned two schools of thought.

One school of thought advocates a gradual approach that will see the union government coming through a bottom-up approach founded on the regional economic groupings (REGs) such as Sadc, Comesa, Ecowas, the East African Community and the Central African Community.

This school argues that there is no need to hurry the union government as the continent should strive for economic unity first through the REGs and then move to political unity.

The second school of thought, led by Libyan President Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and comprising mainly of small West African states, is agitating for a top-down approach starting with the formation of a government and election of its leader as a matter of urgency.

This school wants a union president in place along with a small cabinet to cover key areas such as trade, defence and foreign policy after which cabinet would then be expanded between now and 2015.

The second area of divergence is on the model to be followed and this has spawned three schools of thought.

The first seeks to establish a federal model like the United States of America and the second is advocating a coalition of states co-operating in specific areas with clearly defined state sovereignty along the lines of the European Union.

The third wants a gradual approach that will lead to one government.

The source said the threat by Col Gaddafi that he would de-link from the AU and forge synergies with the EU should the AU continue dragging its feet over the union government was not repeated in the assembly and was not brought up for discussion.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Industry and International Trade Cde Obert Mpofu said debate on the summit theme had dominated proceedings and the assembly was of the opinion that most African countries have industrialisation policies and what was left was to co-ordinate implementation and mobilise resources as the situation was more conducive given the attention Africa is receiving from co-operating partners in the East who want to engage on a win-win basis.

He said the consensus was Africa should stop exporting primary products and move seriously towards value-addition to get maximum returns on its exports.

The summit winds up today with the consideration of reports on activities of the Peace and Security Council, a report of the chairperson of Nepad heads of state implementation committee, report on the Aids Africa Watch; and adoption of the decisions of the 12th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, along with the decision and declaration of the 10th Ordinary Session, the communiqué said.

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