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African Union to Adopt Proposals to Strengthen Commission

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
03 February 2009

The African Union (AU) summit currently underway in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa is expected to adopt a document today that would strengthen commissions to make the African Union effective on the continent. The document is expected to contain proposals aiming to transform the organization's governing body, the African Union Commission, into an effective authority with portfolios. This comes after newly elected AU chairman Muammar Gaddafi promised to pursue his vision of a United States of Africa despite its rejection Monday by many members. Gaddafi adds that his project to create a united continental government would be approved at the next meeting in July unless a majority opposes it. The African Union usually relies on consensus in reaching decisions. A participant in the discussion, Professor Okey Onyejekwe, tells reporter Peter Clottey that the document once adopted would ensure that Africa speaks with one voice in the future.

"The main item on the agenda is the adoption of the proposal to transform the AU commission into an authority, which would now have extended portfolios and more targeted responsibilities for the new secretaries that would be appointed," Professor Onyejekwe said.

He said today's adoption of the proposal is a first step towards realizing the objective of African countries speaking with one voice in the future.

"The document itself basically is a more targeted roadmap towards the transformation of the AU into a union government of Africa. So it has more roadmaps and more width that is clearer towards how the AU will now be transformed into a union of African states, and it will now have more secretaries rather than commissioners," he said.

Professor Onyejekwe said the proposals yet to be adopted are cooperation between those who support the accelerated African Union government and those who are against it.

"Essentially, it's a compromise between those who would have wanted an accelerated transformation to a union government, and those who were looking for a gradualist approach towards this transformation. But what this does basically is now to create secretaries with various responsibilities at the continental level, but falling short of now transforming the AU into a United States of Africa," Professor Onyejekwe pointed out.

He said the African Union aims to strengthen its organs to make the organization effective in handling challenges on the continent.

"The argument of the proponent for this new structure is that it will help enable the AU to capacitate itself and build up the structures, and to be now ready to become more effective in terms of the ultimate objective of a union government with funded portfolios in areas of defense and foreign policy," he said.

Meanwhile, Libyan leader Gaddafi, who has been supported staunchly as newly elected chairman of the AU by AU members like Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, has been pushing for a unity government for years, saying it is the only way to meet the challenges of globalization, fighting poverty, and resolving conflicts without what he describes as Western interference.

But South Africa, among other member states, sees the idea as a distant and not too pragmatic prospect that would infringe the sovereignty of member states. Although all 53 members of the AU say they agree with the idea in principle, Gaddafi's proposal was formally rejected on the first day of the summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

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