Africa’s new centre of power to determine pace of continental unity

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- African leaders gave themselves a deadline of 2010 to rati fy a new treaty authorizing the formation of an African Authority, headed by a P r esident, a Vice President and a cabinet of 10 Secretaries who would not have pow e rs equivalent to ministers, African foreign ministers said here Friday.
A deal concluded after painstaking talks on the formation of an African Authorit y, favoured the formation of the African Union The African leaders undertook to deliver the signatures on the treaty by the nex t Summit in January, either in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or in Kampala, Uganda.
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said the African leaders agreed to set up the Authority, to be headed by the President and a Vice President and constit u ting some 10 Secretaries, including those responsible for foreign affairs, defen c e, trade and industry and political affairs.
Experts said the move towards a stronger African Union (AU) Authority was likely to create a fresh interest on the activities of the Authority and there were ch a nces of great success and failures as efforts begin to achieve the United States of Africa within the shortest time possible.
However, officials familiar with the activities of the AU Commission said the or ganisation lost the battle to give itself more powers when it ended with a mere r ole of coordination of foreign policies, defence and trade.
"The AU Commission has lost the battle for the powers they needed to be given to them and that was the reason they wanted the Commission renamed, but they have w on in a certain way because the mandate of the Commission has been clarified and its powers defined,” one diplomat said.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who spoke briefly to journalists, said an ag reement was reached that would strengthen Africa’s struggle for unity and contin e ntal integration, but did not elaborate.
He just noted that the African leaders c alled for peace in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who spoke to journalists minutes after the l andmark decision was reached to transform the AU Commission into an Authority, s a id the issue was agreed upon but work was still continuing on the subject and a f inal declaration would be made before the closing of the talks.
But experts warned that with the Regional Economic Blocs (RECs) given more visib ility in making decisions and implementing the projects that have been designed a s the pre-requisites for continental unity before the United States of Africa is declared, there were risks of further disagreements.
“The RECs have opposing views on some of the issues, if they start to participat e as blocs, it would be difficult for the Authority to deliver on some of its go a ls,” said Liberian international law scholar, Prof.
V Kromah, who is part of h i s country’s presidential delegation.
He said the terms of work of the new secretaries, who would not enjoy powers equ ivalent to those of ministers, would be worked out in the new protocol to be rat i fied.
The Authority to be put in place would be headed by the President, who would be the elected Chairperson of the current Commission, Jean Ping, and deputized by t h e Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha of Kenya.
The Secretariat of the AU would a ct as the cabinet.
Experts said the formation of the Authority would ultimately lead to the United States of Africa.

03 july 2009 19:35:00

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