Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is hosting an African summit in
conjunction with celebrations marking the anniversary of the military
coup that brought him to power 40 years ago. Many
leaders are approaching the gathering with mixed emotions.
Gadhafi is using his position as this year's chairman of the African
Union to bring the continent's leaders to Tripoli, ostensibly for talks
on conflict resolution. The head of the AU Conflict Management
Division, El-Ghassim Wane says Mr. Gadhafi floated the idea at the last
African summit, which was also held in Libya less than two months ago.
chair of the union made a proposal to hold a special session on
conflict situations in Africa given the many crises our continent is
facing, and the proposal was welcomed by the other heads of state, and
they agreed to meet in Tripoli on the 31st of August to review the
conflict situations on the continent," said Wane.
agenda touches what are considered Africa's three major conflict
hotspots, Darfur, Somalia and the Great Lakes region, including the
Democratic Republic of Congo. The summit sidelines will also feature
meetings on how much Africa should demand in compensation from
developed countries at the Copenhagen climate summit in December.
was no coincidence that this special summit is scheduled at the same
time as the gala celebration of the bloodless coup on September first,
1969 in which the 27-year Colonel Gadhafi seized power. He is now
Africa's longest serving leader, a throwback to the era when the
continent was run largely by military strongmen.
expected the event to draw a number of top rank world leaders. But
given the international outrage at the hero's welcome given to the man
convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing, many leaders are suddenly
Word had been spread that French President Nicolas Sarkozy
and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
would be there. But the French news agency Friday denied that Mr.
Sarkozy would attend, and Russia's Interfax news agency said both Mr.
Medvedev and Mr. Putin had other engagements.
The United States
had planned to send a diplomatic observer to the summit, but the Obama
administration this week quietly canceled its participation. A US
diplomat who asked not to be identified because she is not authorized
to speak said the event would be monitored by staff at the Tripoli
The attendance of some of Africa's top leaders at the
celebration is also in doubt. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,
who is bidding to be the continent's representative at the Copenhagen
climate summit, has scheduled important meetings in Addis Ababa Monday.
Zimbabwe's 85-year old President Robert Mugabe, who has a nearly
perfect record of attending AU summits, is rumored to be ailing.
Instead, the guest list is likely to be headed by such figures as Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
Gadhafi anniversary observance will undoubtedly overshadow the
ostensible summit theme of conflict resolution. The AU's El Ghassim
Wane says the gathering is intended to make a strong show of support
for Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, and to recognize the
recent gains his Transitional Federal Government has made against
foreign-backed rebel forces.
"Over the past few years, the TFG
forces have performed rather well on the ground," he said. "What we'll
be looking at in Tripoli will be to see how to mobilize further support
to increase capacity of Somali security institutions but also to
strengthen the AU presence on the ground and more generally the
involvement of the international community in support of Somalia."
Wane says the discussion on Darfur is expected to be similar.
course it remains very precarious but there are far less incidents
today than there were some months and years ago," he said. "But at the
same time we know the only sustainable solution to Darfur is to find a
Several African and western diplomats say
they would not rule out a grand announcement on the security front
during the summit, given leader Gadhafi's flair for the dramatic. But
they agree that real breakthroughs would be highly unlikely, if not
impossible on such longstanding conflicts as those in Darfur, Somalia
and the Great Lakes.