Sirte Summit: Between slogans and political commitment

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- On their way to the Ouagadougou Conference Centre in Sirte (Libyan Jamahirya), African leaders were greeted by banners bearing messages and slogans seeking to influence the outcome of the two-day 5th African Union (AU) Summit opening here Monday.
The slogans range from those condemning the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), to the ones warning developed countries that Africa was no longer their back-garden.
Other banners advocated freedom of movements for people and goods and the launching of one African passport.
The slogans calling for the abolition of boundaries and National State, reject the division of the African continent under the pretext of aid and also link Africa's future with the emergence of the United States of Africa, anchored on the proposal by Libyan Leader Moammar Kadhafi, who has called for the creation of continental ministerial portfolios in four vital areas including Foreign Affairs, Defence, Trade and Communications and Transport.
The proposal is seen as a key challenge which the Libyan leader has posed to the tottering Union, to judge its degree of maturity and political commitment.
The test appears particularly necessary in the face of slow flow of funds into the AU coffers.
Member States are owing the continental organisation about 88 million US dollars, although part of the arrears was inherited from the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
But in reality only 12 out of 53 member States have paid their financial dues to the AU.
Meanwhile, the delicate item on the agenda of the AU Executive Council session on the reform of the UN took considerable time with seven contenders for the possible two permanent seats proposed for Africa on the Security Council.
Despite the fact that a High Special Commission had worked on the criteria and other related details, its report did not help much in narrowing the sharp differences.
The compromise reached on the emotive issue is that no African country should place its candidature for the UN Security Council seat directly or unilaterally.
But a long-serving African diplomat likened the differences over the UN seats to "villagers quarrelling over their individual stake in a meat, when the sheep is no where in sight.
" According to delegation sources, the proposal by the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, on alternate means for financing the African Union, could have run into some technical difficulties because one of the options focused on import levies at the national level but it avoided contradiction with World Trade Organisation (WTO) standing regulations on fixed ceiling for taxation on imported goods.
This means that the option remains open.
A formula said to have gained consensus is the ratio-funding by the five big contributors to the AU annual budget namely, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa.
The five would be meeting 65 percent of the AU annual budget, with Libya alone paying 15 percent while the others pay 13 percent each.
To some observers, this proposal constitutes a major departure from the old OAU path that for over 38 years maintained a scale of assessment for contributions determined by area, population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of member States.
According to analysts, there could be negative repercussions from this method, which legitimises for the first time in the politics of Africa, the concept of "super powers.
" Though, it might have existed, it had never been played up, in order to maintain the "equal right and equal obligations" principles among African member States, one analyst noted.
But like one observer said, the AU "can no longer afford to continue to be held hostage to the defunct OAU principles and models.
" The new proposal could be the only way out for the AU to obtain the resources that would allow it to function and progress.
Cash flow has been the weakest point of the three-year-old Union, and it must avoid proving critics right that lack of resources would constitute its greatest undoing.
But the financial issue apart, the next question is: "will the Sirte 5th AU Summit leave behind the era of slogans and initiate actions that will convince ordinary Africans that the burial of the OAU in Durban in July 2002 was total?

03 july 2005 22:10:00

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