The director of governance at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa says he expects a change in approach following Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s election as chairman of the African Union over the weekend.
Okey Onyejekwe expressed the hope that President Mutharika will be “consultative” in leading the continental body.
“My initial reaction was that we had averted what was being speculated, which was the fact that the incumbent chairman was not going to relinquish his post, and it would have become very troublesome for the institution itself. So I’m quite glad that the transition went on smoothly, irrespective of attempts to perpetuate the former chairmanship,” he said.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was elected African Union chairman last year, wanted to continue for another year. His bid to stay on ran contrary to an agreement among African leaders that the position should be rotated every year.
The move attracted a stiff challenge from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which strongly supported the candidacy of Malawi’s Mutharika.
Onyejekwe said African heads of state refused to extend Gaddafi’s chairmanship.
“President Gaddafi himself thought that he had put in place some major ongoing changes. For example, the transformation of the African Union into Africa Union Authority, and subsequently to United States of Africa …And there were quite a number of other leaders too who were supportive, albeit behind the scene. But ultimately, I think the tradition of transferring power basically overcame all these maneuvers,” Onyejekwe said.
Soon after his election as chairman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the weekend, President Mutharika pledged to champion greater investment in agriculture to end chronic hunger in Africa.
Onyejekwe said he is expecting other changes from Mutharika that differ from Gaddafi’s leadership.
“I expect basically a change in style in terms of how he conducts himself. Rather than one person who towers above everybody else, I think he will be more consultative in his approach, and secondly, Malawi does not have the deep pocket which Libya has, which allowed President Gaddafi to basically run the show the way he pleased,” Onyejekwe said.
Political observers say Gaddafi wanted a year extension to advance his plan to create what has been described as the United States of Africa. The plan would incorporate the continent’s nations into a political federation.
A United States of Africa idea was rejected last year by other leaders who reportedly feared losing their sovereignty.