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African Union Begins Summit in Libya

The African Union (AU) holds its 13th semiannual summit Wednesday in Libya's coastal city, Sirte. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who is the current chairman of the continental body, is hosting the meeting.

The conference theme is "investment in agriculture for economic growth".

Several African heads of state and governments have reportedly arrived and are ready to participate in today's session.

"What the African leadership is trying to do is to recommit themselves to a very fundamental, very crucial issue on the continent. An issue that affects the bulk of their citizenry is food security," said Andrew Kanyegirire, communications director of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Some African heads of state were reportedly boycotting the summit to protest the leadership of Gadhafi, who has been described as a dictator after coming to power through a bloodless coup d'état in 1969.

But Kanyegirire said there are no clear indications that the leaders were boycotting the summit because of Gadhafi's leadership.

"Those are things that I have possibly heard in corridors. There is no factual evidence to say that this particular leader stayed away because of the leadership of the host country," Kanyegirire said.

He said NEPAD encourages solidarity among countries on the continent.

"As an institution, we feel very strongly about issues to deal with unity and integration," he said.

Kanyegirire said it is unfortunate there are those who say the time is not ripe for the AU's agenda for politically integrating the continent.

"There are some civil society organizations, private sector elements… and even leaders who feel that maybe this process is going a bit too quickly in terms of integration," Kanyegirire said.

He said that there is unanimity, however, among many African leaders for unity and integration.

"I think there is continental commitment. The question is time processes and procedures. There is genuine commitment across the board," he said.

Kanyegirire said the African Union frowns upon coups d'etat, adding that the age of military takeovers are going out of style.