Africa, Development & Aid, Headlines

AFRICA: Regional Integration No Path to Continental Government, Says Gaddafi

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Jul 1 2007 (IPS) - The final leg of the 2007 African Union (AU) summit kicked off in the Ghanaian capital of Accra Sunday, with a three-day gathering of the AU Assembly – comprising heads of state and government.

This year&#39s summit is devoted to talks on setting up a continent-wide government to create a "United States of Africa", in the hope of spurring development. The notion of a pan-African government was first advocated by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana&#39s founding president, who helped establish the Organisation of African in 1963. The AU succeeded the OAU in 2002.

"Africans want unity. They want the removal of borders and the removal of customs and any restrictions. They want one identity and they want to move freely across the African continent. They want to be strong in the face of Europe, Asia and America," said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a leading supporter of continental government – this in a message to a conference held in South Africa&#39s capital, Pretoria, ahead of the assembly.

The Jun. 29 event was organised by the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria, and the Libyan embassy. Similar gatherings have taken place in Uganda, Senegal and Libya.

Gaddafi rejects the argument that deepening regional integration is a necessary precursor to continental government.

"Imagine when North Africa will become one state from Egypt to Mauritania. This will not happen…Even Algeria and Morocco which are sisterly countries are in a state of war and will never meet. Libya and Egypt will not unite. Impossible!!!" he noted, also pointing to disunity in the Horn of Africa.

"There have been thousands of casualties in Ethiopia and Eritrea as they fought one another. They used to fight until recently. Up until now they are in a state of war."

Ethiopia and Eritrea engaged in a bitter, two-year border war that ended in 2000.

Ongoing instability in Somalia has aggravated matters. While a weak transitional government has been installed in the capital, Mogadishu, two parts of the north – Puntland and Somaliland – have declared themselves autonomous and independent, respectively.

"People want us to wait until Somalia unites and ends its problems. Somalia has split into three or four countries. Uniting Somalia is a challenge and it might not unite," said Gaddafi.

In light of this, it was easier to have pan-African government than first bring neighbouring states together: "All these countries will converge immediately in African unity…Africa&#39s unity will unite them without any problems."

Delivering a keynote speech at the Pretoria gathering, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano called on Africans to "join the express train to union government or risk remaining in perpetual oblivion in the world of globalisation and proliferation".

"The time is now. Tomorrow will be too late. It&#39s now or never."

A 2006 AU study proposing the functions and responsibilities of a pan-African administration, &#39An African Union Government: Towards the United States of Africa&#39, lays out a three-phase process that would enable continental government to be in place by 2015.

Activities to be carried out in the years leading up to this deadline include reaching agreement on how to fund the government, drawing up a constitution for it, and holding elections for posts in the administration.

But, "It&#39s not clear what sovereignty each state would be willing to cede to the continental body," said Che Ajulu, a researcher at the Johannesburg-based Institute for Global Dialogue, a non-governmental organisation, in reference to the 53 AU members.

Andre Thomashausen, director of the Institute of Foreign and Comparative Law at the University of Pretoria, does not hold out much hope for this week&#39s gathering in Ghana. "I&#39m afraid that the Accra summit will degenerate into protocols…" he said.

Since Africa&#39s embrace of multi-party democracy, Thomashausen added, "the living standard of the people has not improved. Some think that Africa should follow the China model of pursuing development before democracy."

Gaddafi called on Africans to throw their weight behind the project for continental government.

"Africa has huge potential which could enable it to become a super power if it is united. We do not want the historic and fatal resolution of unity to be hostage to the will of those meeting in a small hall in the so-called African summit which is attended by scores of presidents. Such historic fatal resolutions have to be the will of millions of Africans and not just a score of presidents."

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