Chissano says goodbye as Obasanjo takes over AU chair

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria Tuesday took over as head of the African Union (AU) from his Mozambican counterpart Joaquim Chissano, who bade his peers farewell in his last AU summit as president.
The hand-over took place during the opening of the third summit of the Pan-African organisation in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Obasanjo's taking over as the AU head, following prior consultations within the Committee of Permanent Representatives, was positively welcomed by the AU Commission, whose senior officials placed great hope in "the new African leadership" in which the Nigerian leader and his counterparts from South Africa, Algeria, Senegal and Libya, among others, play a key role alongside UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Obasanjo, currently in his second four-year mandate as Nigerian president, his new role as AU head came as an opportunity to steer the new Union at the highest level.
Next year the Sudanese President Omar el Bashir will, during the Khartoum summit, assume the AU chairmanship before handing it over to the leaders of other countries like the Gambia, which are waiting to host the Pan African conference.
Sources at the Commission told PANA that the next decade of Africa is being prepared now, since in the next two or four years, the partial renewal of the African political class will necessarily give time to the new generation before they can display their influence to the full.
That was why, the sources added, Obasanjo's arrival at a time when President Joaquim Chissano bade his peers farewell bore due interest.
Except when the annual summit convenes at the AU headquarters (in Addis Ababa), for lack of host countries, the chairmanship of the Pan-African organisation is traditionally assumed by the leader of the host country.
Thus, Madagascar's Marc Ravalomanana would have assumed the Union's chairmanship, if his country, which had offered to host the 2004 summit during Didier Ratsiraka's tenure, had not relinquished the move during last year's summit in Maputo, Mozambique.
On that occasion, the Grand Island then re-admitted within the African community after long internal political crisis, argued that "the deadline was too short to guarantee chances of success" for this annual meeting of Africa's highest decision-making body.

06 july 2004 12:06:00

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