Qaddafi Made Chair of the African UnionFebruary 2, 2009 # 7:48 pm # Human Rights # No Comment
President Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya was named chairman of the African Union on Monday, wresting control of a body he helped found and has long wanted to remake in his pan-African image.
His installation as the new head of the 53-member body resembled more of a coronation than a democratic transfer of power. Colonel Qaddafi was dressed in flowing gold robes and surrounded by traditional African leaders who hailed him as the “king of kings.”
The choice of Colonel Qaddafi was not a surprise — he was the leading candidate — but the prospect of his election to lead the African Union caused some unease among some of the group’s member nations, who were meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as among diplomats and analysts. Colonel Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya with an iron hand for decades, is a stark change from the succession of recent leaders from democratic countries like Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria.
Colonel Qaddafi is an ardent supporter of a long-held dream of transforming Africa, a collection of post-colonial fragments divided by borders that were drawn arbitrarily by Western powers, into a vast, unified state that could play a powerful role in global affairs. He has repeatedly proposed immediate unity and the establishment of a single currency, army and passport for the entire continent. He pledged Monday to bring up the issue for a vote at the African Union’s next summit meeting, in July.
While a few African leaders share his passion and his timetable for this pan-African vision, most prefer a go-slow approach, given the political realities that have emerged in the half-century since most of Africa became independent.
“In principle, we said the ultimate is the United States of Africa,” said Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, the previous African Union chairman, according to the BBC. “How we proceed to that ultimate — there are building blocks.”