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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: African Heads of State and Government Agree To Union Government But Fail To Set Timeline (July 4) by Godwin Nnanna

A declaration issued yesterday in Accra, Ghana at the end of the ninth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union said the leaders agreed to strengthen the regional economic communities as well as harmonise their activities before a union government could be formed.

The communiqué shows that the summit at the end of deliberations bowed to the gradualists school of thought. Nigeria and South Africa are believed to be the two leading voices in this school. A ministerial committee has also been formed to identify the contents of the concept and its relations with national governments.

Speaking at the end of the summit, which closed yesterday morning, the AU chairman, President John Agyekum Kufuor, said, "It was a unanimous decision."

President Kufuor said the leaders had adopted "a step-by-step approach" in order to come out with a concept that suits the African condition.

"We are not going to copy United States of America; we are going to cast something to suit our continent."

It represented a face-saving compromise between some leaders who wanted to set up a continental African government immediately, and others who favoured a more gradual, step-by-step approach.

"Clearly, we’re not there yet. It’s a step forward but we’re still a long way off," Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said.

The decision to take six more months to study the implications and timing of the proposed creation of a federated African state stretching from the Cape to Cairo was a setback for at least two leaders, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

Both who argued that Africa needed to speak and act as one in a globalise world, they had publicly advocated the immediate formation of a continental government.

In his closing remarks, Kufuor said: "The debate has not been about winners and losers, a majority or a minority, the ‘instantiates’ or the gradualists.’

"We emerge with a common vision in principle for the realisation of a union government. We all have a shared vision of a united, vibrant continental union."

Gaddafi and Wade were not in their seats in the conference hall when the closing Accra Declaration was read to reporters.

The decision for more study reflected the position of leaders like South African President Thabo Mbeki, who recommended strengthening existing regional economic communities before any setting up of a continental union and government.

"Excellent, I’m very happy," Mbeki said when asked how he viewed the result of the summit.

According the communique made available to the media, the summit agreed to:

* To accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent, including the formation of a union government for Africa with the ultimate objective of creating the United States of Africa.

* Rationalise and strengthen the regional economic communities, and harmonise their activities in conformity with our earlier decision, so as to lead to the creation of an African common market, through the stages set in the treaty establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty), with a reviewed and shorter timeframe to be agreed upon in order to accelerate the economic and, where possible, political integration.

* Conduct immediately, an audit of the Executive Council in terms of Article 10 of the Constitutive Act, the commission as well as the other organs of the African Union in accordance with the Terms of Reference adopted by the 10th Extraordinary Session of our Executive Council held in Zimbali, South Africa, on May 10 2007.

* Establish a ministerial committee to examine the following:

Identification of the contents of the union government concept and its relations with national governments;

Identification of domains of competence and the impact of the establishment of the union government on the sovereignty of member states;

Definition of the relationship between the union government and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs);

The elaboration of the road map together with timeframes for establishing the union government, and identification of additional sources of financing the activities of the union.

Also, the summit agreed on the importance of involving the African peoples in all the various countries as well as those in the diaspora, in the processes leading to the formation of the union government.

However, the next summit of the 53-nation AU is in January.

This article was initially published on July 4th, 2007

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

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