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African Union Aims to Strengthen Its Internal Structures to Be More Effective

African heads of state and government currently meeting at the African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa today will discuss ways to strengthen its AU commissions across the continent. The move, which would be a compromise solution, aims to overcome what the African Union describes as the problems of sovereignty that weaken its effectiveness. A participant in the discussion, Professor Okey Onyejekwe, tells reporter Peter Clottey that if adopted the African Union would be practicable and would take effect in the near future.

"Today, the compromise proposal, which would basically accommodate the so-called gradualists who do not think that Africa is now ready to transition into a one union government and those who believe that it could be done immediately with a declaration, will now debate the authentic proposal which was vigorously offered by President Meles Zenawi and the other members such us President Yoweri Museveni to now make it an authority which would not basically take away the sovereign rights of nations, but would be a new body that would be able to intervene or act more decisively than previously was the case. And the chances are quite good that this would be adopted," Professor Onyejekwe pointed out.

Professor Onyejekwe said there seems to be an agreement over the need to strengthen the AU's commission to make it more effective on the continent.

"In fact, those who are offering this counter proposal, short of the Union government, are offering now to transition the AU commission into an authority. They are basically saying that the institution would be transformed and capacitated and even reinforced by setting up specialized departments now headed by secretaries to deal with issues of defense, issues of foreign policy the issue of international trade. And that would strengthen the capacity of this new authority. And that would strengthen the AU to deal decisively with these issues more effectively," Professor Onyejekwe noted.

He said there are also discussions about an African Union standby force to ensure peace and stability on the continent.

"I think one of the proposals mooted is just that and that would emerge in today's deliberations. There are also talks about ways to support the African standby force and of course, there are brigades that have been created. But they are not capacitated in terms of being effective to address and meet this emerging crisis," he said.

Today's discussion follows yesterday's rejection by participating countries of an all-embracing proposal for union government, a body that would stretch all across Africa and be modeled loosely after the United States of America and the European Union. The AU opened its 12th summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa in special session, in a heated debate over an African Union government, designed to seek the integration of the African continent. But due to complexities, the parties turned down the proposal put forward by Libyan head of State Muammar Gaddafi.

On a more specific issue, Professor Onyejekwe said the African Union has sent a forceful message to Madagascar rejecting a recent pretext by the opposition mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, for taking over the administration of President Marc Ravalomanana. Rajoelina has accused Ravalomanana of running a dictatorship.

"The AU chairman Jean Ping had already issued a statement in which he sent a signal to the mayor of Antananarivo that any attempt to take over power from the constitutionally elected president would not be accepted by the AU. And I think this is the general sentiment. And it is in keeping with the development recently such as what happened in Guinea, Conakry and previous pronouncements that non constitutional means of acceding to power will not be accepted," he said.

Today's opening ceremony will feature speeches by AU Chairman Ping and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the Secretary General of the League of Arab States Amr Moussa and several African heads of state and government. Summit delegates are expected to discuss building Africa's infrastructure during the closing two days of the three-day meeting, with an emphasis on improving African transport, energy and investment sectors.