'United States of Africa' in focus as AU summit opens

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- The grand debate on the Union Government in Africa got underway Sunday at the 9th ordinary summit of the AU in Accra, Ghana, with a speech made over 40 years ago by Ghana's founding President, Kwame Nkrumah, echoing loudly.
"We all wanted a united Africa, United not only in our concept of what unity connotes, but united in our common desire to move forward together in dealing with all the problems that can best be solved only on a continental basis," Nkrumah had said in his address at the founding session of the OAU in 1963.
Two years later, in 1965, the revered founding father of Ghana hosted an OAU summit in Accra, at which the project for the continental government was first discussed.
Over four decades on, Nkrumah's exhortation has become the trigger for the sole agenda (full political and economic integration of Africa with the ultimate emergence of the United States of Africa) of the AU summit holding in his country, Ghana.
More providentially, the debate is being steered by Ghana, which holds the rotational chairmanship of the AU.
The historical dimension to the debate was not lost on current Ghana's President John Kufuor, as he presided over the debate on the union government Sunday.
"It is an uncanny coincidence that here in Accra, on the 50th anniversary of our independence, this same subject on continental government should return to the agenda of the summit of the African Union as its sole item for deliberation," he said in his opening speech.
President Kufuor said the decision of the last AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January to devote the Accra summit exclusively to the 'Grand Debate' on the Union Government "assumes that the question of unification is not in doubt.
What remains is the form of government and how to attain it".
Ahead of the debate, the sharp division among African nations on whether to launch the union government project immediately or allow it to emerge progressively has created mutual suspicion between the two groups.
That development was not lost on Kufuor when he called for mutual trust and respect, tolerance and critical analysis "even when we disagree", during the debate.
The Ghanaian leader also refused to succumb to the pessimism of those who said the union government project was premature, hence would not fly despite the much-hyped debate.
"I am confident that at the end of our deliberations, we should be able to arrive at a common understanding of the sort of 'Continental Government' we want for ourselves and how to develop a road map with time lines towards its realisation," Kufuor said.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by proponents and supporters of the project, including Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, the Ghanaian leader said: "The task before us is enormous and exciting.
"We are at crossroads, and at the same in the threshold of a new era, with great opportunities but also many challenges and responsibilities for Africa.
We therefore must not fail the people of Africa and the future of our continent by unexamined decisions during the Grand Debate," he added.
About 40 African leaders, including Presidents Kadhafi, Wade, Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Abdelaziz Boutelflika (Algeria), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) are attending the summit.
Also here is Nigeria's new President Umaru Yar'Adua, who is attending his first summit since he was inaugurated into office 29 May, succeeding Olusegun Obasanjo.
Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir, whose country has been in the eye of the storm over the lingering crisis in Darfur, is notably absent from the summit.
The African Diaspora is also represented, with the Rev.
Jesse Jackson leading a group of African American delegates to the debate, while the UN Secretary-General sent his deputy, Asha-Rose Migiro, an African.

01 july 2007 14:38:00

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