The nature and process of changes that come with the Union

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The historic transformation of the OAU into an African Union (AU) will necessitate, in the next twelve months, the confirmation of a legal document that supersedes all preceding ones and the establishment of five organs and six new Pan-African institutions.
As stipulated in the Union's constitutional act, the period between the OAU's burial and the UA's baptism should not exceed a year, as the 1963 Addis Ababa Charter will have no more effect beyond that deadline.
Credible sources told PANA that until then, several changes are expected to take place with regard to the names and functions of Pan-African organs while the new continental structures and institutions are being progressively set up.
Regarding leadership, a qualitative step needs to be taken.
The constitutional act of the Union takes "precedence" over the OAU Charter, which it replaces, as well as over the Abuja treaty establishing the African Economic Community or any other document of continental scope.
The OAU General Secretariat, headed by Salim Ahmed Salim, will initially be changed into an "interim secretariat" of the Union.
It will later become a "Commission" of the African Union headed by a "President" assisted by "Vice Presidents", "Commissioners" and elements of a new Pan-African public service.
Though the "Conference" of Heads of State and Government, which is the highest decision-making organ, will not undergo any substantial changes, either in its nature or in its attributions, the Council of Foreign Ministers will be transformed into an "Executive Council".
This consists in a sort of continental government, which will meet at least twice a year.
It will be assisted by "specialised technical committees", composed of other ministers or senior officials known as the "Committee of permanent representatives", a consultative organ whose membership includes all the African Ambassadors accredited to "Addis Ababa, the Union's headquarters".
In addition, six new institutions will complete the structure of the African Union.
They are the Pan-African "Parliament" and the economic and social "Council": two institutions whose aim is to involve the populations as well as the various socio-professional sectors in the life of the Union.
Then comes the "Court" of Justice, responsible for arbitration and three financial institutions, namely "the African Central Bank", "the African Monetary Fund" and "the African Investment Bank".
The establishment of these financial institutions which, according to President Abdoulaye Wade, "do not all have unanimous support", could however take more than a year because of the technical problems involved which cannot all be solved through political will alone.
Analysts say to accelerate the establishment of these organs and institutions, the next year will be devoted to the preparation of draft riders to the Constitutive Act of the Union, regulations, budget estimates, priority programmes or recommendations.
They emphasise that these practical details regarding the transformation of the OAU into an African Union will be the focus of the next summit of the continental organisation, scheduled for July in Lusaka.
The purpose of this continent-wide institutional change is to "strengthen African unity and solidarity" by imagining new ways of accelerating the long and very slow economic and political integration process going on in the continent.

20 april 2001 15:34:00

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