Forty heads of state and government at a special summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Friday proclaimed the birth of the African Union, designed to unite the continent politically and economically, reported AFP.
"The African Union was proclaimed through the political determination of the participants, who rose to applaud," one of the participants told the agency.
To be adopted, the Union had to be ratified by the parliaments of 36 of the OAU's 53 member states.
The Union is slated eventually to replace the OAU and would have a parliament, a central bank, a monetary fund and a court of justice, said reports.
The union proposal was first drafted at an OAU summit in Sirte in 1999 and was adopted by African leaders meeting in Togo last year.
Libyan Leader Moammer Kadhafi described the 5th OAU extraordinary summit on the African Union as a "historic turning point," not only at continental but also at the international level, reported the Pan African News Agency (PANA).
"Today marks the crowning of the dozens of steps taken by Africa on the road to freedom and unity," the Libyan leader told African leader, Thursday at the opening of the summit in Libya's north-east coastal town of Sirte.
According to The Associated Press, it is not at all clear that the union Kadhafi envisions would be anything more than symbolic.
A proposed parliament would not have the power to make laws, said the AP.
“The lofty agenda for the OAU's Sirte summit reflects Kadhafi’s frustration with his Arab brethren, who have for years scoffed at his persistent attempts to unite them,” said PANA.
For Kadhafi, the final straw came in 1998 when Arab leaders refused to endorse an OAU resolution to reject UN air sanctions imposed on Libya for refusing to hand over two Libyans suspected in the Lockerbie bombing, added PANA.
But Kadhafi’s efforts to reinvent himself as a pan-African leader have been somewhat undermined by clashes last September between migrant black African workers and Libyan youths, said AP.
Official figures put the number of killed at six, but the death toll is believed to be higher, according to the agency.
The workers, encouraged to come to Libya by its talk of African brotherhood, are widely blamed by Libyans for what they see as a rise in crime, prostitution and drug use in their country.
Libya put 331 people on trial last month on charges arising from September's clashes. They include Libyans and people from countries such as Niger, Nigeria and Ghana, said the agency -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )