LOSING BID: Libyan ruler Moamar Ghadafi, left, and Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at AU meeting Sunday. Ghadafi lost his bid to win a second term as chairman while Liberia was elected third Vice Chair. As Vice President, Liberia along with Gabon, Uganda, and Libya will, in collaboration with the Chairperson of the Union, provide guidance in the running of the affairs of the African Union during a one-year term which begins in February 2010 and ends February 2011.
Liberia Elected 3rd Vice Chair of African Union; Ghadafi Loses
The 14th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union opened Sunday in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, with the summit endorsing the election of Liberia as the 3rd Vice President of the Union. At a close door session, the Heads of State and Government also endorsed the election of Gabon as the first Vice President and Uganda, as the second Vice President.
The countries are members of a new bureau that would run the affairs of the Union for a one-year term. The President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika becomes the new Chairperson, succeeding Libyan Leader, Muammar El Gaddafi. Libya will now serve as the fourth Vice President on the bureau.
As Vice President, Liberia along with Gabon, Uganda, and Libya will, in collaboration with the Chairperson of the Union, provide guidance in the running of the affairs of the African Union during a one-year term which begins in February 2010 and ends February 2011.
Liberia’s election followed an impressive presentation at a sub-regional level meeting chaired by Burkina Faso, to consider among, other issues, the question of Vice President for the Union from the ECOWAS sub-region.
Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Sunday presented awards to two African scientists for their roles in stimulating scientific research on the continent.
Professor Jan Hidelbrand of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa was the winner in the Basic Science and Innovation category, while in the Earth and Life Sciences category, the winner was Dr. Patrick George Ericcson of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
President Johnson Sirleaf, in congratulating the recipients urged them to continue striving for excellence through science.
AUC Chairperson Dr. Jean Ping said the objective of the award is to stimulate scientific research at national, regional and continental levels.
AUC sources say it is the first time, through the African Union, that Africa is expressing gratitude to science by awarding two African scientists with awards for excellence.
The winners were chosen from 50 candidates through a transparent process carried out by the African Union. Each winner received $100 000.00 (one hundred thousand dollars).
During Sunday’s opening session, the African Union unveiled its new flag.
To tunes of the AU anthem, the new flag was hoisted by the outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, Libyan leader Muammar El Gaddafi.
It will be recalled that during the 8th African Union Summit which took place in Addis Ababa on 29 and 30 January 2007, the Heads of State and Government decided to launch a competition for the selection of a new flag for the Union. They prescribed a green background for the flag symbolising hope of Africa and stars to represent Member States.
The AUC received a total of 106 entries proposed by citizens of 19 African countries and 2 from the Diaspora. The proposals were then examined by a panel of experts put in place by the African Union Commission and selected from the five African regions for short listing according to the main directions given by the Heads of State and Government.
At the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, the Heads of State and Government examined the report of the Panel and selected one among all the proposals. The flag is now part of the paraphernalia of the African Union and replaces the old one.
This year’s summit, which has as its theme: “Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development,’ entered a closed session Sunday afternoon following opening speeches delivered by the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Mr. Jean Ping, United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, Guest of Honour, Mr. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, President of Spain, and the outgoing chairman of the African Union, Libyan Leader, Muammar El Gaddafi, as well as the incoming Chairperson of the Union, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Mutharika expressed his and the Malawian peoples’ condolences over the tragic accident of an Ethiopian airways plane on 25 January as well as to families of victims of the Haitian earthquake.
Mr. wa Mutharika said he would priorities food security in his term of office, adding that Africa should strive to achieve food security for its people and to feed its people before exporting. “I am, therefore, proposing that our agenda for Africa should focus on Agriculture and food security. I propose that our slogan should be “Feeding Africa through new technologies; let us act now”, the Chairperson said.
To support food production, the Chairperson suggested investment in the construction of infrastructure.
Ghadafi Slams AU Leaders after loss
Gaddafi, failing in his bid to stay on as chairman of the African Union for another year, said on Sunday the pan-African grouping wasted time while failing to meet global challenges. The Libyan leader used his farewell speech to again urge African leaders to begin the process of political unification, which was a large part of his agenda during his chairmanship. He also criticized the AU for "tiring" him with long meetings and making declarations and reports without asking him.
"It was like we were building a new atomic bomb or something," he said, referring to meetings that had lasted long into the night and that he characterized as "really useless."
"The world's engine is turning into 7 or 10 countries and we are not aware of that," Gaddafi said, dressed in a white robe and black fur hat.
"The EU is becoming one country and we are not aware of it. We have to get united to be united. Let's be united today."
An African unity government is a goal of the AU's founding charter goal and Gaddafi, supported by leaders like Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade, has been pushing for union for years, saying it is the only way Africa can develop without Western interference.
But members, led by South Africa and Ethiopia, argue the plan is impractical and would infringe on sovereignty.
FOOD SECURITY IS PRIORITY
The Malawian leader promised to make battling hunger a top priority.
"Africa is not a poor continent but the people of Africa are poor," wa Mutharika said. "Achieving food security at the African level should be able to address the problem."
In recent years, Malawi has enjoyed bumper harvests following the introduction of a fertilizer and seed subsidy program.
Although leaders fought over who would be chairman, they agreed on the need to support leaders of transitional governments in Somalia, Guinea and Sudan, and for tough action against feuding politicians ignoring AU directives in Madagascar.
The chairman of the AU commission, Jean Ping, said there would be unspecified consequences for parties that go it alone in resolving Madagascar's year-long political crisis. They have been given 15 days to respond to AU power-sharing proposals.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said millions of people continued to be displaced in Sudan's Darfur region. He added the United Nations would work with the African Union to see off a crisis with grave risks for regional instability.
"In Sudan, time is of the essence. The elections are three months away. The two referenda to determine the future shape of Sudan are in just under a year," he said.
Ban said the United Nations also would continue to provide financial support to AU peacekeepers in anarchic Somalia, as the conflict has a "direct bearing on global security."
An AU peacekeeping force of 5,000 -- provided by Burundi and Uganda -- is struggling to hold back Islamist rebels in Somalia. The AU has repeatedly asked for UN peacekeepers to bolster its efforts but has only been given funding.