African Leaders Approve Union Plan at Summit
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) leaders meeting in Togo have approved legal texts for the creation of an African Union, keeping faith with a 1999 pledge they made in Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi's home town of Sirte, reported Reuters Wednesday.
But the fine print of the agreement, which was confirmed by sources attending the second day of the annual OAU summit in the West African nation on Tuesday, suggests establishing the new Pan-African grouping will take some time.
Formal creation of the new Union, which will effectively replace the OAU, will not start until two thirds of the OAU's 53 members have ratified the texts, one source told Reuters, adding that a transition period of up to a year was envisaged.
Thirty three heads of state and government are attending the three-day summit in Togo's capital Lome, which ends with a formal closing session on Wednesday.
Angola led a boycott, accusing summit host Gnassingbe Eyadema, Africa's longest-serving head of state and the new OAU chairman, of trading in rebel diamonds that fuel its civil war. Congolese President Laurent Kabila and Namibia's Sam Nujoma joined the boycott, said Reuters.
Plans for the African Union, as in Sirte, follow the European Union model, falling short of Kadhafi's vision of a federal grouping akin to the United States.
They also bear a striking resemblance to the OAU, with the heads of state's conference the top decision-making body and the foreign ministers forming an executive council. The Union's headquarters will be in Addis Ababa, like the OAU.
But the texts also envisage a Pan-African parliament, a court of justice, a central bank, an African monetary fund and an investment bank. Like the EU, its secretariat will be called the Commission. The leaders' conference will decide its powers, according to the agency.
In Sirte last September, leaders from most of the OAU's members gave their foreign ministers the job of drafting the legal texts for approval at the Togo summit, with the additional target of ratification, where appropriate, by December 2000.
The Sirte Declaration envisaged "a constitutive Act" being solemnly adopted in 2001 at a fresh extraordinary summit in Sirte. "We aim to establish the parliament by the year 2000, to provide a common platform for our peoples," it
OAU ASKS ALGERIAN PRESIDENT TO KEEP HORN MEDIATION ROLE
In a report by AFP, the agency reported that the African leaders asked Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika overnight to remain a mediator to the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict after he stepped down as OAU president.
Bouteflika, acting on a mandate from the organization, managed in June to establish a ceasefire that halted two years of fighting between the two countries.
The pan-African group asked him to "continue his action with the aim of reaching a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict between the two countries," in a resolution passed at its 36th summit which began Monday in Lome.
He was succeeded as OAU president by Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema – (Several Sources)
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