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Intrigues as Ghaddafi’s tenure as AU chair ends

Venue of the summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia

By Okey Nderibe, who was in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia

The recent meeting of African Heads of State and Government  in Ethiopian where the Libyan  leader, Moammer Ghaddafi, stepped down as African Union (AU) chairman was full of diplomatic manouvres.

Last month’s 14th   Assembly of African Heads of State and Government  which took place  in  Addis-Ababa, the capital  of  Ethiopia, was characterized by high drama.

However, the most visible of the  dramatic incidents was the decision  of  Libyan leader  and immediate past chairman of the continental  body,  Col. Moammer Ghaddafi,  to suddenly amend the programme for the opening ceremony of the summit by inviting some traditional rulers to address the Assembly of African leaders.

The two representatives of African monarchs, who were simply introduced as representatives of the kings and princes of Africa by Ghaddafi,  were  dressed in heavy traditional African regalia.

The representatives of African  kings and princes  told  leaders of the continent  that the  Association of Kings and Princes of Africa was established by Gaddafi for the pursuit of peace in the continent,  stressing that the group was not interested in politics.

He said the group had already  contributed in the promotion of peace in Africa citing  the role played by the association  in restoring peace in Cote D’Ivoire as example of  the role the group could play in conflict  situations across the continent. He maintained that Africa could only grow through promotion of the continent’s culture.

Referring to Gaddafi whom he described as “ King of Kings of Africa” the  spokesperson for African monarchs thanked Gaddafi for giving the group recognition during his tenure as chairperson of the African Union.

He reminded African leaders that  many  of the continent’s member states would soon mark their 50th anniversary  as independent nations adding that this was a period for  stock-taking and evaluation for the continent.

He also praised Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as another African leader who had recognised the group’s role as important in the continent. He maintained that there was need for African leaders to change their attitude towards the traditional institutions in their various countries,  adding that “ although African traditional rulers of the past era did not have good western education, there are traditional rulers in the continent today who are intellectuals”.

In his own speech earlier, Gadaffi  warned that  Africa  faced the  danger of being  re-colonised  if  the continent did not unite.  He  also expressed disappointment over the intrigues and manoeuvres that characterized  the election of  his successor as leader of the continental body.
Gaddafi’s proposal to go for a second term (backed by Tunisia, some Western and Central African countries) had caused a stir particularly amongst Southern African nations who had nominated the Malawian  president to succeed Gaddafi.

The chairmanship for the continental body rotates each year on   regional basis and the 14th member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) had been challenged by Tunisia’s proposal that Libya’s term be extended.
Some member states had expressed fear that the move might split the  union into two  camps;  those for Tunisia’s proposal and those who argued that the AU should respect its own rules and regulations. Gaddafi  had, in his remark before stepping down, called for a strong and established new mechanism for African Union that will build the United States of Africa militarily, economically, socially and culturally.

“We are a  very rich continent, we have huge potentials, we have human resources but the challenges are also there unfortunately.  They are huge but we have to be together otherwise we will be colonised again”, the Libyan leader said.

He continued: “We have three powers whose names I will not mention. But they  are competing over Africa be it economically or by exploiting our resources or even militarily.  Therefore we have to be aware of that. Any vacuum or void in Africa will be beneficial to them”.

Apparently to make it known  that he did not need the AU  platform to continue to lead and contribute to the contigent, the Libyan leader said his country will host the Afro-Arab Summit in Libya  this month and Libya  will head the  body  for one year,  adding that there will be other summits before  the end of the year.

Indications that something was amiss within the continental body became obvious when the Assembly of Heads of State  and Government,  which was supposed to kick off at 9  in the morning,  was delayed for closed to two hours.

The initial  programme had indicated that the opening session was to end by 9.30 am.
The  programme had also  indicated that immediately after the opening ceremony,  Heads of State  would  move to  the lobby of the United Nations Conference Centre  -where the conference was supposed to hold for the launch of the African Union flag. The next item on the agenda  was supposed to be taking of group photographs and then the inauguration of the Exhibition on Information and Communication Technology.

The second session of the meeting  of the Assembly of  Heads of State  was supposed to be a closed door session which ought to begin by 9.30 am and end by 10.  Then Heads of State and  Government  were supposed to proceed to Committee room one for consultation and the composition of the Communique Drafting Committee. But for reasons that were not explained, the entire programme changed.

Apparently to prevent journalists from observing  what was going on, they were denied access to  the press gallery for close to an hour. Later, the press men were allowed into the gallery but  hardly had they  sat down than  they were ordered out again by Ethiopian Security Service personnel. The crowd of journalists were asked to relocate  to another hall. They were left there for a while before information trickled in that other journalists had began assembling at the entrance to the gallery.

Indeed, there appeared a strong determination on the part of the  security personnel- who were in-charge of security at the United Nations Economic Commission for African ( UNECA) building  venue of the summit- to frustrate journalists from covering the event by  wearing  them out. They were kept waiting for about one hour without seats.  But the journalists too were prepared to endure.


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