African leaders gathered at the summit of the African Union Thursday agreed on the creation of an African “Authority” to replace the AU Commission. Its main function is to “coordinate” defence and foreign policies: This is a bold step towards a “United States of Africa” encouraged by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who nevertheless wished that “Authority has higher powers.”
Muammar Gaddafi’s wishes have not been completely granted. Despite repeated calls for the creation of a common defence secretariat for the whole of Africa, made by the Libyan leader and President of the African Union (AU), leaders of African states have rather opted for a compromise. After lengthy late night discussions at the AU summit, they agreed, between Thursday night and early Friday morning, on the establishment of a common “Authority” which will coordinate defence and foreign policies.
All positions present considered, the new Authority now replaces the AU. This comes in a backdrop of strong oppositions from Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and Angola, who argued that the draft is a breach to their sovereignty. But according to Beninese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Marie Ehouzou, “The document reflects everybody’s position (…) The states are ready to cede a bit of their sovereignty for the benefit of the Authority”, he told the AFP.
Nevertheless, the Libyan leader has marked a step foward towards his fight for a “United States of Africa”, which according to his wishes should become a competent Authority on issues concerning defense and foreign policy; these prerogatives were not included in the Commission’s powers.
Functions of the Authority
To enter into force, the functions of this “Authority” — which will be equipped with a president, a vice president and “secretaries” — must first be ratified by the AU’s 53 member Parliament.
According to the final agreement, the Authority will “co-ordinate the positions of the African Union on questions of common interest for the continent and its people.”. The “Authority” will also represent the AU among international agencies, particularly in the area foreign policy, under the mandate of Member States.
This decision brings the unending debates that have taken place in the past few months between the supporters of the status quo against pro-Gaddafi supporters to a halt; a clear step forward for the African Union.