African leaders plot federation plan for continent

LEADERS of the African Union (AU) began mapping out plans to forge a closer federation of states at a summit in Ghana yesterday, acknowledging that the continent’s current system of governance had to improve.

Fifty years after it became the first African nation to free itself from colonialism, Ghana was the venue of an AU meeting devoted to working out how the world’s poorest continent can gain strength through unity.

Ghana’s President John Kufuor and AU commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare told heads of state they can fulfil the vision of Ghana’s founding father Kwame Nkrumah who saw a unified Africa as an unstoppable force for good.

“The question of unification is not in doubt ... What remains is the form of government and how and when to attain it,” said Kufuor.

“I am confident that at the end of our deliberations, we should be able to arrive at a common understanding on the sort of continental government we want for ourselves, and a roadmap with timelines on its realisation,” he added.

The three-day summit has been billed by some as an opportunity to forge a so-called United States of Africa, with Libya’s veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi at the forefront of pressure.

But while Gaddafi would like to see a common defence and foreign policy, other leaders such as South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki are far cooler towards that and want the AU to be given time to build up its own institutions given it was only formed five years ago at a summit in Durban.

Kufuor said the AU needed “structural improvements and nurturing” while Konare told the leaders there was “a real need for change, for transformation” of institutions which were still struggling to carve out a clear role.

“The African Union Commission which should be the engine for the union does not have a well-defined status and character,” he said.

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