Lusaka,11th July 2001(Reuters)
leaders met behind closed doors yesterday to chart the future
of a new pan-African body to replace the OAU after electing
the man to take charge of it.
leaders attending the summit held a marathon vote overnight
to elect the man who will oversee the winding down of the
OAU and its replacement by the African Union (AU) with a planned
parliament, court of justice and central bank.
They chose former Ivorian foreign minister and seasoned diplomat
Amara Essy to turn an outdated pan-African body into a modern
entity during a 12-month transition period.
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan commended Africa for
its decision to set up the union. "The decision to transform
the OAU into an African Union should be seen as an attempt
to broaden the limits of the organisation," Mr Annan said.
said he hoped the new body would address economic and social
issues as well as political issues, the main remit of the
OAU, established in 1963. But the 53-member, financially strapped
OAU will have enormous difficulties in forging economic, political
and legal ties on a continent dogged by wars and poverty,
and saddled with a $334 billion debt.
Annan, a Ghanaian, said African leaders must redouble efforts
to resolve the crises on the continent if the grand AU plan
was to bear fruit. "We need to clean up our neighbourhood,
we need to pull together to make the union successful," he
said. "Union implies stability, union implies a certain harmony,"
Mr Annan said, noting that Europe enjoyed 50 years of peace
before the EU was born.
Africa wants to go that route, the first business is to end
conflicts and crises and work together to resolve their differences
through political means and dialogue," the UN chief urged.
organisation is already looking at ways to drum up funds as
fees alone will not be enough to run the AU, the brainchild
of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
special African Union tax levied on all member states is under
consideration, but cynics doubted whether the measure would
work. Many countries have struggled to pay their annual OAU
fees. Bridging the economic divide could also become problematic.
among African countries is relatively low, and the continent's
numerous trading blocs - the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), the
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic
Community of West African States (Ecowas) - have been at odds
over forging free trade agreements.
the ideas behind the AU have nonetheless spurred new hopes
of tackling the continent's myriad problems. Outgoing OAU
Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim on Monday described the
creation of the African Union as one of the "greatest achievements
of this continent".
President Frederick Chiluba - who is also the incoming chairman
of the rotating OAU presidency - said the heads of state should
"come up with landmark decisions pertaining to the operationalisation
of the AU".
states will also look to the AU to do a better job at handling
civil and ethnic strife than its predecessor, whose record
at conflict prevention is abysmal.
Chiluba stressed the need for political cohesion "in the increasing
world of globalisation, (so that) our continent speaks with
a strong and united voice".
said he had "great concern that despite our continent having
reached a major turning point, the African skies remain overcast
by a dark cloud of violent conflicts, and ethnic religions
and other unresolved tensions as well as the spectre of unconstitutional
usurpation of political power that looms menacingly around
The Zambian host added: "There is ... need for us to accelerate
the process of democratisation and ensure we bring into the
African Union common democratic values."