Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gaddafi, the AU and the Trials of the NGO

The following quote from Edith Jibunoh, Senior Manager of Africa Outreach, is a good example of the thin line that NGO's often have to tread when they build partnerships with national governments and international political bodies.

On the one hand, they do not want to alienate host nations by making critical remarks which might result in their humanitarian work being undermined or permission to work denied. On the other hand, if they are tasked with reporting on a specific event - in this case the recent African Union summit in Addis Ababa - then they cannot exactly say nothing at all.

Read between the lines of Ms Jibunoh's report for an insight into future debates (heated ones!) that the AU will face in the coming few years and also the opportunities for NGO's to further hone their diplomatic skills.

The summit also announced the appointment of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi as Chairman of the AU and Gaddafi used the opportunity of his inauguration to restate the case for an African Union government. Gaddafi’s position insists that the only way Africa can meet the challenges of globalization and the fight against poverty, without Western interference, will be through a united government, with Africa speaking with one voice. Gaddafi would also like to see a single passport for free movement of African citizens, and a single military force for the continent. Gaddafi has strong support from Senegal’s President Wade but he faced strong opposition from other nations, led by South Africa, who reported that African countries were not ready and the idea was a long way off from implementation.

The discussions were lengthy and heated at times, but the final agreed resolution was to change the AU Commission into an Authority, after leaders rejected the initial proposal to transform the commission immediately, into a union government. Former Chairman of the AU, President Kikwete of Tanzania, said an adoption of a union government had to be preceded by a study of the legal ramifications so that the sovereignty of the member countries would not be compromised. The details of the structure for the new authority will be agreed at a special session in the next three months with plans to formally launch at the next AU summit in July. Views on the desired speed of integration from AU authority to AU government varied from nine to thirty-five years but all leaders agreed that the continent needed to speak with one voice on international issues, especially trade and climate change.

Presumably, the Colonel won't still be President of Libya in thirty-five years, despite being granted the grand title of King of Kings by African tribal chiefs in 2008.


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