News / Africa

Ping Defends AU Libya Policy in Summit Opening Speech

Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, speaks during a meeting of African economic blocs at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, January 25, 2012.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, speaks during a meeting of African economic blocs at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, January 25, 2012.

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping has offered a defense of AU policy on Libya during an opening address to the continental summit underway in Addis Ababa. Ping is favored to win re-election as chairman, despite a strong challenge from South Africa.

Speaking to Africa's foreign ministers Thursday, Chairman Ping said the AU's difficulty with handling the Libyan revolt was that it did not start with peaceful demonstrations, as with other “Arab Spring” uprisings.

The African Union came in for withering criticism during Moammar Gadhafi's last months in power for a mediation attempt that could have kept the Libyan dictator in power. Defending the policy, Ping said AU thinking had been based on concern that Libya might become a failed state like Somalia if Gadhafi were overthrown.

AU policymakers at the time expressed concern at reports the Libyan rebels were allied with al-Qaida. In the end, an AU mediation team was sidelined as NATO airstrikes ensured the inevitability of Gadhafi's fall.

Ping argued that Africa's voice has become more influential during his four years at the helm.

"At the international level, the commission observes with satisfaction that the voice of the African Union is heard increasingly on the international stage and in the community of nations," he said. "I want to recall that we will have the opportunity to have our voice heard at the G8 and G20, and the commission is being consulted by the U.N. system in all that affects and concerns the continent."

In a sign of dissatisfaction with Ping's leadership, South Africa has offered its home minister and former foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as an alternative candidate for the commission chairman's post. Dlamini-Zuma is a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle who has served in the cabinet of every president since Nelson Mandela.

But AU observers say the South African challenge is running into stiff opposition. Analyst Mehari Maru of the Institute for Policy Studies in Addis Ababa says Ping, a former Gabonese foreign minister, has the backing of small countries that object to one of Africa's most powerful nations leading the commission.

"Traditionally this position was held by a candidate from smaller countries," said Maru. "It's not a written rule, but the practice is big countries like South Africa and Nigeria do not run for this position. So this is the kind of kind of tacit or ghost agreement if you wish, and a change now by South Africa without consultations with the major powers, regional leading countries, is received with some surprise."

AU observers caution, however, that the selection of a commission chairman is by secret vote of African heads of state, and anything can happen in that group.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra is also facing opposition in his bid for re-election. Ethiopia, the summit host country, has offered its AU Ambassador Konjit Sinegiorgis as a candidate for the post. Lamamra is expected to win re-election, but he tells VOA the contest is a healthy sign of the continental body's democratic structure.

"This is democracy at work, so it's good to be questioned and it's good to see whether it's worthwhile continuing or not," said Lamamra.

The AU heads of states will also choose one of their own to the rotating position of African Union chairman.  By convention, the one-year post rotates by region, and this year is West Africa's turn. Observers say the two finalists for the job are Benin and Nigeria.

Heads of state arrive for a two-day meeting starting Sunday. Elections are expected to be among the first items on the agenda.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid