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Leaders call for African government

*Most powerful leaders agreed on govt.


- TvNz

(Monday, November 14, 2005)

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"Participants included President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, the second most populous, and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, which has the biggest economy."


Africa's most powerful leaders agreed on Sunday that a government was needed for the poorest continent to hold its own among the world's other regional blocs.

Revisiting an idea that goes back decades and was once championed under the banner of "pan-Africanism" by Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, the leaders said the union should not only be of governments but also of the African people.

"The necessity for eventual union government is not in doubt," said a collective statement at the end of a two-day conference in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Participants included President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, the second most populous, and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, which has the biggest economy.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is a vocal advocate of African unity, sent his foreign minister.

In an opening speech on Saturday, Ghana's president, John Kufuor, said there were competing visions among the African leadership.

"Some want to go only as far as the European Union while, for others, it has to be nothing short of one central government," Kufuor said.

"The emerging reality is that the rest of the world is already constituted as political unions or economic blocs. The political arrangement that enables Africa to compete to advantage is what should engage Africa."

In recommendations issued on Sunday, the heads of state and government said the pursuit of a union government should be based on identifiable shared values and common interests.

"Such values may include among others democracy and human rights, liberal economic management framework in particular monetary and fiscal discipline, development of African human resources, agricultural resources among others," they said.

Analysts said this was the latest in a series of wish-lists agreed by African leaders that had yet to bring the continent closer to meaningful integration.

"These sorts of fora are very good at aspirations but they fall down on practicalities of how to take things forward," said Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

"These are long, very long-term aspirations that have been around for a long time," he said, adding that many African countries had a poor record of implementing agreements they had already signed up to.

Tacitly recognising this, the leaders said an audit should be conducted of steps taken towards integration and how well existing agreements and structures were being used.

African leaders pose for a photo during African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria, 30th-31st January, 2005
African leaders pose for a photo during African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria, 30th-31st January, 2005
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