African leaders have vowed to speed up the economic and
political integration of their continent to pursue the goal of a
United States of Africa, but they also agreed to study more closely
how to achieve it.
The decision, announced close to midnight on Tuesday, followed
three days of often heated debate at an African Union summit in the
Ghanaian capital Accra that overran its scheduled closing time by
half a day.
It represented a face-saving compromise between some leaders who
wanted to set up a continental African government immediately, and
others who favored a more gradual, step-by-step approach.
"Clearly, we're not there yet. it's a step forward but we're
still a long way off," Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
The decision to take six more months to study the implications
and timing of the proposed creation of a federated African state
stretching from the Cape to Cairo was a setback for at least two
leaders, Libya's Moammar Khadafy and Senegalese President Abdoulaye
Arguing that Africa, the world's poorest continent, needed to
speak and act as one in a globalized world, they had publicly
advocated the immediate formation of a continental government.
They did this in the face of the more gradualist approach of
presidents from southern and east Africa.
The summit host, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, sought to play
down the divisions that had emerged at the meeting.
"The debate has not been about winners and losers, a majority or
a minority, the 'instantists' or the 'gradualists'," he said in his
"We emerge with a common vision in principle for the realization
of a union government. We all have a shared vision of a united,
vibrant continental union," said Kufuor.
Khadafy and Wade were not in their seats in the conference hall
when the closing Accra Declaration was read to reporters.
While affirming the need to accelerate economic and political
integration, the document said a committee of AU ministers would
study how a continental union under a single government would
affect national sovereignties and existing regional economic
The committee would also consider a "roadmap" and timeframe for
the construction of a United States of Africa that would be
included in its report to be presented to the next summit of the
53-nation AU in January.
The decision for more study reflected the cautious position of
leaders like South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had
recommended strengthening existing regional economic communities
before any setting up of a continental union and government.
"Excellent, I'm very happy," Mbeki said when asked how he viewed
the result of the summit.
Kufuor testily rebuffed reporters' questions about how long it
could take before a United States of Africa was formed and what
kind of government it would have.
"It is not something we can tell beforehand. Africa shall
evolve," he said, adding this would be the subject of the
But Kufuor said Africa in its drive for continental unity would
not strive to copy the models of the United States of America or
the European Union.
"We want to do a custom-made thing, something to suit the unique
attributes of our continent," he said.
(China Daily via agencies July 5, 2007)