Magazine article New African

African Union: So Far, So Good: The 2nd African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique (11-14 July), Was a Huge Success. Slowly but Surely, Africa Is Taking Its Destiny in Its Own Hands, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal Summmed It Up: "We Have Achieved a Lot over the Past Four Years. What We Have Done, despite the Difficulties and the External Pressure, Is Close to Miraculous." Omar Ben Yedder Reports from Maputo

Magazine article New African

African Union: So Far, So Good: The 2nd African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique (11-14 July), Was a Huge Success. Slowly but Surely, Africa Is Taking Its Destiny in Its Own Hands, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal Summmed It Up: "We Have Achieved a Lot over the Past Four Years. What We Have Done, despite the Difficulties and the External Pressure, Is Close to Miraculous." Omar Ben Yedder Reports from Maputo

Article excerpt

Forget the unflattering editorials in the Western media about the African Union (AU) becoming a "union of despots", Africa is finally on the march. The AU is taking shape four years after the historic Syrte Summit in Libya that gave birth to what Kwame Nkrumah and other leaders had fought for but did not achieve way back in 1963--a union of African states.

Now there is a sense of urgency and togetherness that has never been seen before. Asked by the BBC to sum up in 30 seconds the achievements of the Maputo Summit, President Chissano of Mozambique, the new AU chairman and Summit host, replied: "I don't need the 30 seconds you have given me. Quite simply, we have more cohesion and more solidarity."

In fact, throughout the Summit, there was a sense of seriousness in the deliberations for a viable union to nurture the development of Africa and tackle the problems it faces in the 21st century.

The leaders now realise that the priorities for the continent have changed since the OAU was formed in 1963 and Nkrumah's passionate call for a "proper" union (not the loose OAU) was rejected. The Cold War has also long ended and the challenges ahead are no longer so political but much more economic.

Africa needs a new emphasis and this was reiterated by the Speaker of the South African Parliament, Frene Ginwala: "The OAU achieved its objectives, but it was time we had a new type of organisation, which is why Africa decided on a different organisation." The OAU stressed non-interference in tine internal affairs of member states. The AU, with its peer review mechanism, will keep a close eye on what happens on the continent.

Amara Essy, the outgoing interim chairman of the AU Commission (the equivalent of the OAU's secretary general), spoke about his delight at the progress made over the past year. The key structures of the Union, namely the Assembly, the Executive Council, the Commission and the Permanent Representatives' Committee had all been launched, he said. Other organs such as the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), the African Court of Justice, and the financial institutions would soon be also up and running.

Essy, however, made it clear that the "transition process" was not complete. "I would say that it is no longer the OAU," he said. "At the same time, it is not yet the African Union that the people of Africa are yearning for as their hope to overcome the numerous challenges of the century."

The main objective of the Union is to lay a solid and lasting foundation for what Federico Mayor, the former director general of UNESCO, once described as the "interactive triangle". Namely, "peace, development and democracy".

That said, the immediate challenges facing the AU, as enunciated by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, are money and the quick ratification of the outstanding charters.

The AU cannot survive without the required funding. Once all the organs are in place, it will require an annual budget of $64m (up from me current $51m). Sadly the Union is still owed a staggering $39m in dues arrears by member states. If not cleared, the arrears could undermine the work of the Union.

The AU's ability to eliminate the many conflicts on the continent, will also be compromised if member states do not quickly ratify the protocols establishing the Peace and Security Council, the Pan-African Parliament and the Court of Justice. Until these are ratified, the AU will, in effect, not be able to carry out some of its most important duties.

The question of funding is bound to raise further issues, and the diplomacy of the new AU chairman, President Chissano, will be sorely tested. Tunisia, for example, has already put forward a proposal to reconsider its contributions, having seen them rise from $700,000 to just under $5m a year.

The AU's five wealthiest members, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, pay the lion's share of the Union's costs. …

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