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The AU Summit: a Royal Mess

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The AU Summit: a Royal Mess

Posted by Emily Roberts on February 5, 2009

The AU Summit: a Royal Mess

Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi isn’t just making flamboyant fashion statements at the African Union, or AU, summit in Ethiopia, where he has been made the AU’s new chairman for a one-year term. At the beginning of the summit, Gaddafi circulated a letter proclaiming himself Africa’s “king of kings,” a title bestowed upon him by 200 traditional leaders invited to Libya last August.

Gaddafi has already called for the AU to take steps to create a ‘United States of Africa’ (led by guess who?) and extended the summit another day. Meanwhile, irritated African heads of state attempting not to alienate the leader of oil-rich Libya are agreeing to disagree. In the past, the AU has utilized consensus to make decisions. Now, according to Gaddafi, the AU will take a “silence is approval” approach, in which at least two-thirds active opposition would be required to keep him in check, a remarkably anti-democratic approach to managing a regional organization.

Gaddafi’s United States of Africa would have one currency, one passport, one military force and, of course, one government. The new South African President Kgalema Motlanthe stated his hopes for “a single authority in charge of Africa,” which is more than problematic in an area as large and diverse as this continent. Additionally, Gaddafi’s singular authority would supposedly look just like that which exists in Libya — where opposition parties are not allowed, since, according to the Colonel, multi-party democracies in Africa always lead to bloodshed.

As the AU summit drags on over disagreements about Gaddafi’s grand plan for a new U.S. of A., Colonel Gaddafi’s role as AU chairman will only make it harder to resolve burning conflicts in Darfur and eastern Congo. Not only does Gaddafi have a long, long history of regional adventurism and intervention (from training Charles Taylor to directing Libyan Arabs to populate areas of Darfur to arming Chadian rebels), he has consistently been an obstacle to diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur. Not surprisingly, given his own track record, Gaddafi has consistently opposed the impending International Criminal Court action against Sudanese president Bashir. According to Gaddafi:

The Sudanese laws are the only ones that apply on Sudanese citizens in Sudan. Sudanese courts are the only ones entitled to try people inside Sudan.

Gaddafi’s chairmanship, along with some other recent bad decisions, is a disaster for the AU if it hopes to be taken seriously on the global stage or among its own citizens.