SADC Leaders Push for Spread of Democracy before a United States of Africa

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BYLINE: Hans Pienaar

Accra, Ghana: President Thabo Mbeki took a back seat at the AU summit yesterday and left it to his neighbours to counter Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi's big push to fast track a united continental government, the United States of Africa.

The much-anticipated stand-off between Mbeki and Gadaffi failed to materialise as the meeting of African leaders dedicated to debating the USA ended late last night.

Mbeki and Gadaffi were said to represent opposing views in the "grand debate" and the Ghanaian press published photographs showing the two in opposition to each other.

Gadaffi has been pushing for a USA by 2015 but has found outright support only from Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, all known to benefit from his "oil money".

However, the fast-track idea was boosted by sections of African civil society, who held several events on the fringes of the summit, and members of the African diaspora, such as the Rev Jesse Jackson.

Although South Africa favours a slower approach, Mbeki left the talking to Lesotho's premier, Pakalitha Mosisili, chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who said on behalf of SADC that democracy had not yet spread far enough to enable a union government.

Other SADC members also spoke on various aspects of their common stand.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was earlier rumoured to have joined Gadaffi's fast-track camp, but spoke firmly in favour of the SADC's slower approach.

This was to reach the USA by first consolidating the building blocks - the continent's eight Regional Economic Communities, including SADC. Other regional leaders took a similar view.

Gadaffi, who distributed green "African passports" in the lobby of the International Convention Centre where the summit was held, said he was the only one among the leaders present who knew what Africans thought.

He had travelled 20 000km across the continent and had walked with Africans on camels and donkeys. …