AU geared for a transformation

February 2, 2009

, ADDIS ABABA, Jan 2 – The African Union (AU) Commission will be transformed into a new AU Authority, as a compromise step towards eventually forming a continent-wide government, the bloc announced on Sunday.

The decision came even as President Mwai Kibaki, who is attending the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said a United States of Africa cannot be rushed and needs a practical timeline.

"In principle, we said the ultimate is the United States of Africa. How we proceed to that ultimate; there are building blocks," AU Commission chairman Jean Ping told reporters.

The decision to create a new AU Authority came after a divisive day of talks on whether to create a new government for a "United States of Africa," a move championed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Ping said of the new authority that it would: "(Create) an institution with a bigger mandate, with bigger capacities, which moves us toward the goal of the union government."

President Kibaki said there was need to strengthen the current regional economic blocs as support pillars for a United States of Africa, adding that governments should educate their citizens on the union concept.

Speaking in Addis, the Kenyan President said there is need to invest in intra-Africa infrastructure, encourage Africans to interact more and open borders for more trade and movement of people.

The new AU Authority would have a broader mandate than the existing commission. The body would be headed by a president and a vice president, and the commissioners would become secretaries charged with portfolios.

Governments will still retain their sovereignty, as under the existing system, Mr Ping added.

Many African leaders are reluctant to relinquish any of their sovereignty to a new government, while some favour strengthening regional institutions before creating a continent-wide system.

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