11 May 2007
Africa’s foreign ministers have been meeting in South Africa this week to thrash out recommendations on the continent’s proposed integration ahead of the African Union (AU) heads of state summit taking place in Accra, Ghana in July.
Since their arrival at Zimbali Lodge outside Durban on Monday, the 52 members of the Executive Council of AU Foreign Ministers, chaired by Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo, have been tackling what has been termed Africa’s “great debate”.
In January, the AU heads of state summit in Addis Ababa tasked the ministers with evaluating progress towards Africa’s political and economic integration and bringing recommendations to the mid-year summit in Ghana.
Elements of what Akufo-Addo and SA Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma refer to as the “African Union government” include proposals to grant legislative powers to the Pan African Parliament – currently holding its 7th session in Johannesburg – and merging the continent’s Human Rights Court with the African Court of Justice.
The ministers also discussed the need for a common understanding of continental integration and the pivotal role to be played by regional economic communities such as the Southern African Development community (SADC).
AU organs ‘must be strengthened’
Addressing the ministers on Tuesday, outgoing AU Commission chair Alpha Konare emphasised the need to integrate the continent by strengthening AU organs such as the AU Commission and Pan African Parliament (PAP).
The PAP in particular should be strengthened with legislative powers, the former president of Mali said, while the AU Commission needed more clearly defined roles and powers to enable it to become the “driver of the AU locomotive”.
“Institutional transformation is under way, but it has not yet been accomplished,” Konare said. “Once it has been completed, the AU will be in a better position to address the challenges we face in Africa.”
The move towards integration arose from a proposal – on the creation of certain ministerial portfolios for the AU – considered by the AU Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria in January 2005.
A committee of seven heads of state, led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, was set up to examine the proposal. Reporting to the Assembly in Sirte, Libya in July 2005, the committee expressed the view that the spirit of the proposal went far beyond mere creation of ministerial portfolios for the AU.
After reviewing the report, the Assembly reaffirmed that the ultimate goal of the AU was full political and economic integration, and serious discussion on the formation of a “union government” for the continent began.