[dehai-news] (Reuters): Africa summit debates Gaddafi's unity plan

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Feb 01 2009 - 14:21:02 EST

Africa summit debates Gaddafi's unity plan

Sun Feb 1, 2009 6:53am EST


By Daniel Wallis and Barry Moody

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - African leaders set aside the first day of an
annual summit on Sunday to discuss Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's
long-standing pet project to establish a United States of Africa.

Delegates said that although some countries are wary of the idea, and a 2007
summit in Ghana devoted to it ended with no deal because of opposition,
delegates felt obliged to debate the plan because of the huge funds that the
Libyan leader has poured into parts of Africa.

Gaddafi, one of the continent's longest-serving leaders, has for years
pressed for a federal pan-regional government, arguing that it is essential
to meet the challenges of globalisation, fight poverty and resolve conflicts
without Western interference.

Some leaders, including Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade, are keen on the idea.

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, said
the first day of the Feb. 1-3 summit would focus on Gaddafi's proposal.

"I remain optimistic that yes, it will be a reality," he told reporters
ahead of the meeting. "The question we are discussing is not whether it will
be a reality, but when, and how".

Commission chairman Jean Ping said recently views on the speed of
integration varied from nine to 35 years, but the continent needed to speak
with a united voice to be heard in international negotiations on trade and
other issues including climate change.

All 53 AU member states agree in principle with the goal of continental
integration. But some -- led by economic powerhouse South Africa -- say it
must be a gradual process.

"Gaddafi has given a lot of money to these leaders over the years," said one
east African delegate who asked not to be named.


"It is important to him, so they will discuss it. But the challenges of
making it work, obviously, are vast."

The official theme of this week's summit at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa
is boosting infrastructure, which experts say is essential if Africa is to
weather the global financial crisis.

But conflict and crisis in Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe and eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo are expected, as usual at AU summits, to overshadow the
official agenda.

Delegates have been given some breathing space by positive developments in
recent days in two of the most intractable problems: Somalia's two decades
of violence and Zimbabwe's economic collapse.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist leader, is attending the talks
after he was sworn in as Somalia's new president at U.N.-led talks in

He is attending the summit in the very country whose powerful army ousted
him as leader of a sharia courts movement that briefly ruled Mogadishu and
much of southern Somalia in 2006. Ethiopia's troops withdrew from Somalia
last month, clearing the way for new moves to end the conflict.

On Friday, Zimbabwe's opposition agreed to form a government with veteran
President Robert Mugabe, ending deadlock that had deepened a political and
economic meltdown. [ID:nLU118438]. Mugabe is attending the summit but made
no comment to reporters when he arrived.

AU officials say the exclusion from the summit of Mauritania and Guinea,
which both suffered military coups in recent months, proved the continent
had moved on from its chequered past, when leaders seldom criticised or even
commented on violence and tyrannical rule.

The latest trouble has been in Madagascar, where a firebrand opposition
leader said on Saturday he had taken charge. The Indian Ocean island's
president denied it.

Late on Saturday, AU Commission chairman Ping told Reuters the rules of the
pan-African body on coups were clear and that any attempt to seize power
illegitimately would be rejected. [ID:nL1045034]

(Editing by Dominic Evans)


C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved



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