Summit takes AU back to its roots

Gaddafi’s home town, Sirte, is not the most accessible venue for an African Union summit. But Sirte does have a special place in the history of the African Union. The proclamation of the AU was signed here in 1999 and since then its compound has expanded over scores of acres.
The AU Chairman Col Gaddafi
The AU Chairman Col Gaddafi

Gaddafi’s home town, Sirte, is not the most accessible venue for an African Union summit.

But Sirte does have a special place in the history of the African Union. The proclamation of the AU was signed here in 1999 and since then its compound has expanded over scores of acres.

There are leaders and representatives from some 50 African countries, as well as guests from the international community.

The Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is here. The theme of the conference is agriculture and how it might lead the continent to greater economic stability.

Africa is certainly in need of some revolutionary ideas.
Far from the gleaming towers of Wall Street, the UN says it is the countries of sub-Saharan Africa that are now paying the highest price of the world’s economic slowdown.

Growth rates have been slashed as export revenues, remittances, commodity prices and aid budgets have all tumbled.

The head of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release the money it had pledged at the last G20 summit in London.

At that time the IMF promised it would sell its gold assets to raise funds for Africa.

Col Gaddafi thinks the long-term solution is unity - a federal government to speak out for all countries on the economy, on defence and foreign policy.

The bold ambitions he has set out for a United States of Africa would be modelled on the European Union, with one economic bloc, one currency, perhaps even one voice on the UN Security Council.

The rationale is sound. African countries have this peculiar trait of trading more with the outside world than they do between themselves.

The trade barriers between them are often the biggest obstacle to building competitive economies of scale.

But there are many here who believe the Libyan leader’s ambitions are a pipe dream.

Few can see the big men of Africa who have ruled their countries for years ceding important powers and control to a distant federal government.

Would such a body really paper over the many cracks that exist - the wars, the poverty and disease?

They are all high-minded debates, far from the turmoil of Somalia, Sudan or DR Congo.

The heaviest fighting in months has engulfed the Somali capital of Mogadishu as radical al-Shabab rebels, reportedly supported by hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters from abroad, threaten to overthrow the moderate interim government.

Unconfirmed reports say an Afghan commander is their third in command.

No wonder the entire Horn of Africa is looking on nervously. There are 300,000 refugees on the border with Kenya - with more to follow.

The Ethiopians who withdrew their forces from Somalia in January say they will only return if the AU agrees a much stronger mandate for peacekeeping. Without it, the Somali government will undoubtedly collapse.

On other issues there are the predicted grumblings about the work of the International Criminal Court.

African and Arab leaders condemned the arrest warrant issued for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, which they believe endangers that country’s fragile peace process.

Since his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity Mr Bashir has visited at least half a dozen African countries.

Col Gaddafi has called on African leaders to reject the ICC’s “warped justice”. He has expressed the view several times that the four African cases currently under investigation by the ICC are an imposition, if not a plot, by the West.

Col Gaddafi forgets to mention that five of the 18 judges are Africans.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, writing in the International Herald Tribune this week, rejected any criticism of political bias.

“There will be less need for the ICC to protect African victims only when African governments themselves improve their record of bringing to justice those responsible for mass atrocities,” he wrote.

BBC

 

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