Saturday, March 7, 2009

Africa rushing to Union Government

Andualem Sisay, AfricaNews reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The formation of the Union Government of Africa was one of the major topics during the 12th African Union Summit held here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In fact, the reason for extending the heads of States summit was the result of disagreement among the leaders. The leaders were unable to reach consensus on the formation of the Union Government.

On Tuesday, February 3, 2009, the 12 heads of states were expected to conclude the three-day summit and members of both local and international media were invited to attend press briefings of the new AU Chairman, Libyan President Gadhafi.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not completed even after mid-night. Suddenly, around 3 A.M, President Gadhafi walked out of the closed meeting saying anything to the media.
As other participants tipped journalists later, Gadahafi was upset for his idea of quickly realizing “United States of African Government” lost support from other African leaders.

In his inaugural speech, Gadhafi said: "I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa”.

The concept

The idea of forming United Government of Africa has been on the table since the formation of Organization of African Union (OAU) in 1963. Still all Member States accept the idea of the United States of Africa as a common and desirable goal.
The phrase "United States of Africa", was mentioned first by Marcus Garvey in his poem 'Hail, United States of Africa' in 1924. Garvey's ideas deeply influenced the birth of the Pan-Africanist movement which culminated in 1945 with the Fifth Pan African Congress in Manchester, United Kingdom.

The congress was attended by famous promoters of pan-Africanists such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Patrice Lumumba of Republic of Congo. Others were George Padmore of Barbados, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Later, Nkrumah and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, among many others, took the idea forward to form the Organization of African Unity, which is replaced today by African Union.
The latest meeting of the African Union, which began on July 1, 2007, was called with a purpose of discussing Gaddafi's idea of a federation of African states.

The debate

But, lately Gadhafi has become the main promoter of the formation of United States of Africa. For instance, during this summit he invited several traditional kings of different tribes from West African countries to lobby African leaders to approve the formation of the union Government of Africa right away.

But, the devil remains in the detail. Now, the issue divided AU members in to two blocks. "In principle, we said the ultimate is the United States of Africa. How we proceed to that ultimate - there are building blocks," said President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and the outgoing Chairman of African Union.

Differences revolve over the modalities and time frame for achieving this goal and the appropriate pace of integration. It is this detail that forced President Gadahafi to walkout of the summit without saying a word to the media, which have been expecting him all-night long.

Libya and some 20 countries seem very much eager to see the union Government as soon as possible, while the other block of countries like Ethiopia and South Africa want to take it slow. Members of the latter block argue that it is too early for Africa to politically integrate. According to this group, Africa must first integrate economically by investing in infrastructure and the like.

Many critics also support the idea of giving priority to economic integration before jumping to political. They argue that each African country should first be free from civil wars for resource and power. The conflict being observed in the continent should get answer by sharing power and resources of each country among its clans and tribes.

In order to realize the Union Government, Gadhafi requires at least a 2/3 vote of the AU member states. He created a system where silence is acceptance. The 12th AU summit is concluded compromising to transform the African Union Commission to African Union Authority. In unspecified timetable, this authority is expected to transform itself to United States of African Government. After three month, experts are expected to come up with ideas of the way forward.

Mentioning as an example, President Gadhafi's support for the traditional African kings, who calls him Kings-of-King of Africa, some critic say that he is pushing the agenda legalize this title.

It was on September 1 1969, while King Idris of Libya was in Turkey for medical treatment, he was deposed by Colonel Muammar al-Gadhafi of the Libyan army under the leadership of in a bloodless coup.

Now, his critics wonder how the man who once overthrown a Libyan King with coup wishes to become King-of-Kings after 40 years. Only time seems to tell what he is capable of doing using his current power of AU Chairmanship.