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African Union is made a reality
African nations unite!

(Finalcall.com)—Africa set a new, yet cautious roadmap for the future July 9-11 with the official formation of the African Union (AU), the continental organization that will replace the 38-year-old Organization of African Unity (OAU). The gathering, attended by some 41 heads of state and government, elected host President Frederick Chiluba as chairman of the new organization. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and a Nation of Islam delegation also attended the historic gathering.

Former Ivorian foreign minister Amara Essy came on board as the continental body’s new secretary-general, replacing Tanzania’s Salim Ahmed Salim, whose sterling 12-year service was heralded by the member states.

Pres. Frederick Chiluba and Mr. Essy were charged with the task of putting into place the institutions and organs of the AU, an integrated and more focused body aimed at improving the lot of African countries and their peoples.

The three-day summit endorsed the establishment of a General Assembly, Commission, an Executive Council, and an African Parliament as the four key organs of the AU. A Court of Justice and a Central Bank and an institution grouping African civic societies are the other AU institutions.

Still ahead for the AU:

  • a proposed formation of a common currency
  • a passport to allow free movement of citizens of Africa from one country to another
  • a national defense force
  • the question of dual citizenship for Africans in the Diaspora

Addressing the concern that the AU not become a "president’s club that will gather annually and do nothing," a criticism bandied about by critics, Pres. Chiluba said during the closing session: "The Assembly is determined that the African Union should be more than just another OAU with a different name. It should effectively address African challenges."

In an earlier statement, Pres. Chiluba said that during Zambia’s tenure as chairman of the OAU/AU, the country would try its best to ensure that necessary arrangements are finalized to be able to put the African Union in operation.

"The honor you have bestowed on our country is a debt that we must pay back by successfully carrying out the tasks you have entrusted us to do. We have neither the wish nor intention to disappoint you," Pres. Chiluba said.

He also disclosed that the Assembly had elected four commissioners for the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and 12 members of the African committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

During a closing session address, Libyan leader and the prime-mover of the African Union, Col. Muammar Gadhafi, said Pres. Chiluba and the people of Zambia will go down in history for hosting the last OAU summit which set up the AU, adding that the body would lift the continent from several years of enslavement and bondage.

"The continent that was humiliated and its peoples treated like animals is now prepared to come together as one," he said.

Col. Gadhafi, whose speech was interrupted by a power-outage for about two minutes, commended the summit’s resolution backing Zimbabwe’s distribution of land to the landless Black majority. He said African land should be left for Africans. On the civil war in Sudan, Col. Gadhafi called for additional efforts to end the killing on innocent civilians and enslavement of children. But he spoke against calls to re-draw the map of the country.

The summit resolution supporting Zimbabwe’s land reform program goes against the grain of U.S. and European Union stands that reject Pres. Mugabe’s taking land of white farmers without compensation. The resolution criticized Britain for reneging on a promise made at independence in 1980 to fund the land reform program.

The Zimbabwean government is taking over thousands of idle farms from white farmers to resettle landless peasants, accusing most of the farmers of keeping the land unproductive. A handful of whites own the bulk of arable land in the country, a privilege they have enjoyed from the colonial period.

Brushing aside the international uproar generated by the land seizures, the African leaders "reaffirmed that the resolution of the land issue is central to ensuring durable peace, stability and economic development of Zimbabwe."

They called on Britain "to co-operate fully and enter into dialogue with the government of Zimbabwe with the purpose of finding a final solution to this colonial legacy."

A major economic initiative agreed upon at the summit could be launched as early as next March, according to Senegalese Pres. Abdoulaye Wade.

The "New African Initiative" is a plan that emanated from the merger of Pres. Wade’s Omega economic initiative and the MAP economic plan, co-authored by Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria.

Donors who participate in the plan will be "closely associated" in the management of funds which they would allocate to African countries to finance projects that will be selected from the new plan, according Pres. Wade.

The Senegalese president said he hoped that, through the implementation of the "New African Initiative," Africans "will lift themselves from the pangs of underdevelopment and, once and for all, stop their long exclusion in the world that is about to be globalized."

He, however, disclosed that nearly $4 billion had already been announced by various partners, including international institutions and major private companies, which showed their interest in a project that cannot be considered as "wild."

Meanwhile, it was announced in Lusaka that Pretoria, the South African capital, would host the inaugural General Assembly of the African Union in July 2002.

Concerning the civil wars occurring across the continent, Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare told delegates that the OAU’s mechanism for the prevention, mediation and resolution of conflicts, should be transformed into a Security Council for the African Union. This is to help tackle persistent armed conflicts and the proliferation of small arms on the continent, he said.

He said with the African Union becoming a "reality," the continent must cease to be the home of conflicts. The Malian leader, who is also current chairman of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, said the African Union "should be light, operational and functional."

Pres. Konare also noted that under ongoing democratization processes, Africa should have permanent representatives at the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, the summit endorsed the establishment of a 18-month transition government in conflict-ridden Burundi, under the leadership of incumbent President Pierre Buyoya. A Hutu president would head the transition government for the second 18 months after which elections would be organized.

The struggle to get the African Union to be seriously considered has been "an uphill battle," Nation of Islam International Representative Akbar Muhammad told The Final Call upon his return from the summit. Min. Akbar accompanied a Nation of Islam delegation headed by the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan, including Supreme Capt. Mustapha Farrakhan, Fatima F. Muhammad, daughter of Min. Farrakhan and his personal nurse, and Sultan Muhammad. The meeting was of such importance that Min. Farrakhan traveled to Zambia while still recovering from life-threatening surgery.

"Those seeking to find fault with the forming of the organization had to deal with the will of the people," Min. Akbar said, "and some leaders are very pessimistic about whether it will work.

"In the final analysis, most voted to give the African Union a chance to change the quality of life for the masses of the people," he said.

Min. Akbar said Blacks in the Diaspora play an important role in the African Union because they can bring the skills and knowledge gained growing up in the west to Africa, and they can help to push African leaders to make the African Union work.

Min. Akbar said the Nation of Islam delegation was the only representation of Blacks from the Diaspora and the Min. Farrakhan’s presence confirmed for the leaders that Blacks in the Diaspora are concerned.

(Final Call news wires contributed.)

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