Libya’s Qaddafi May Be Next African Union Chief, Analysts Say

January 30th, 2009 | by addis portal |

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) — Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi may be chosen as the new chairman of the African Union when heads of state gather for a summit in Ethiopia next week, said analysts including Kenneth Mpyisi of the Institute for Security Studies.

Qaddafi is “the leading candidate” to replace Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, Mpyisi said in an interview yesterday from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The choice of Qaddafi, who has previously proposed the creation of a United States of Africa, may spur cooperation between the continent’s 53 economies, said Desire Assogbavi, an African Union political analyst for Oxfam International.

“Having Gaddafi in this position would be an accelerator for integration,” Assogbavi said in a phone interview in Addis Ababa, where the AU’s headquarters are located.

Choosing Qaddafi to lead the AU would be controversial, given the AU’s objective of promoting democracy and peace on the continent. Qaddafi has ruled Libya since seizing power in a 1969 coup. His government has sponsored rebel movements in countries including Sudan, Chad and Niger, and accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died.

A leader from a North African country has never held the AU’s top post.

African leaders begin their three-day meeting on Feb. 1. While the theme of the gathering is infrastructure development, talks will probably focus on crises in Zimbabwe, Sudan’s western region of Darfur, and Somalia.

Zimbabwe Impasse

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe and his main opponent, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, on Jan. 27 agreed to form a coalition administration to end a 10-month political crisis. The unity government, to be appointed on Feb. 13, is being formed after Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, head of an MDC faction, agreed on Sept. 15, 2008, to share power.

Implementation of the agreement had stalled over disagreements about who would lead key ministries, including Home Affairs, which controls the police.

Continuing fighting in Darfur will also probably be discussed. A joint United Nations-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur is operating at only 60 percent of its intended 26,000- strong capacity, following disputes with Sudan’s government and after African nations failed to commit sufficient troops to the operation.

The 18-year civil war in Somalia will also come under discussion, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops earlier this month and the subsequent capture of the town of Baidoa, the seat of the Somali parliament, by an Islamist militia.

The AU has 3,400 peacekeepers in Somalia, and is supporting Somalia’s transitional federal government.

Not attending the summit will be the leaders of Mauritania and Guinea. The two West African nations were suspended from the AU after coup d’etats last year.

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