Signs of divergences in the African Union

Banjul- Gambia (PANA) – African Union (AU) Commiss-ion Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said on Wednesday in Banjul that he was disheartened by the Commission on the opening of the 9th session of the cabinet meeting of the Pan-African organisation.
This declaration by Konare shows, according to his close aides, his "frustration" concerning the running of the AU, particularly the slowness noted in implementing pronounced reforms.
"Alpha Oumar Konare has come with great ambitions for the AU but his determination comes up against the resistance of some African countries that do not want things to move forward," sources close to Konare's entourage told PANA.
His close aides highlight the constrained powers of the AU Commission.
Konare keeps noting that he is not interested in a commission "structured like a secretariat".
According to his aides, President Konare has called for the setting-up of a new reinforced commission with executive powers in some fields where consensus has been reached.
Yet, things are moving very slowly to the taste of members of the AU Commission who do not understand why this organ cannot have nomination powers in some structures such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), considered as the preserve of South Africa.
Appointments at the secretariat are not controlled by the AU Commission while the texts of the AU stipulate that the chairman of the Commission should appoint executive heads.
Another bone of contention is regional integration considered as the driving force of Africa's development.
At this level, there are divergences on the rationalisation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
Africa has eight RECs: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC), the South African Development Community (SADC), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN- SAD) and the East African Community (EAC).
According to his aides, Alpha Oumar Konare sees it impossible to have coherent policies in these conditions.
He rather calls for a return of the status quo with five Regional Economic Communities that follow closely the outlines of the five geographical blocs of Africa.
But this proposal was rejected by African states.
Thus, at their meeting last March in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, African Integration ministers noted that the eight Regional Economic Communities that exist currently meet eligibility criteria, a way for them to reject the request of the chairman of the AU Commission.
They no doubt relied on the report of the commission set up to study regional integration that noted a certain number of questions concerning the running of regional integration, particularly on the building of the African Union (AU) and on the chances of success of the African economic integration in an environment where regional communities grow in number.
"Can the already existing RECs, taken individually, go through the steps of the Abuja Treaty while some of their members witness a double membership? Can a country member of an REC belong to two customs unions or two monetary areas?," the report inquires.
The report notes that, in the 1980s, "a plethora of institutions resulted in the disintegration of African economies, in view of several reasons including the similarity of objectives, ideological divergences and the incapacity to meet financial commitments".
As the same causes produce the same effects, some members of the AU Commission that requested anonymity note that "the REC rationalisation process cannot be ignored and that concrete decisions should be taken if the continent wants to accelerate its integration".
The mandate of Alpha Oumar Konare at the head of the AU Commission expires in 2007.
Sources close to his entourage say that he will not seek a second mandate, unless there are significant changes in the running of the continent.
The decisions to be taken in Banjul will no doubt clarify the future of Konare in the AU Commission.
"If things do not move forward, he will leave," one of his close aides predicts.

29 june 2006 21:47:00




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