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Botswana’s VP slams Libya, says AU summit failed Africa

July 6, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The Vice President of Botswana Mompati Merafhe lashed out at the Libyan chairmanship of the recent African Union (AU) summit in Sirte saying that the pan-African body “failed Africa”.

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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (L) and Vice President of Botswana Mompati Merafhe (R)

Merafhe speaking at a press conference in the Namibian capital Gaborone said that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi forced upon the members the resolutions relating to the African government proposal and the International Criminal Court (ICC) row with Sudan.

The Botswanaian Vice President avoided naming Gaddafi directly and referred to him as the “chair”.

“The chair has no respect for established procedures and processes of the African Union and this may be motivated by his burning desire to coerce everyone into the premature establishment of an African Union government,” Merafhe said according to the South African based ’The Times’.

He said that Gaddafi did not present the proposed makeup of the new African authority suggesting that the idea will likely stumble upon implementation.

“Given the way the meeting was presided over, Botswana found it fruitless to oppose the adoption of what is essentially the framework of the African Union government, the issue on which our position is well known,” Merafhe said.

“Whilst the summit was forced to adopt a document most countries did not agree with, the test will be in its implementation.” he added.

Libya intensely lobbied the AU members to agree to a central AU authority with powers over foreign affairs, economy and defense. The resolution was later watered down to accommodate objections from several heavyweight countries including South Africa and Nigeria.

The summit also announced that the 30 African countries that have ratified the Rome Statute will not honor their obligations under the convention relating to apprehension of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir who is wanted in connection with war crimes in Darfur.

But Botswana distanced itself from resolution on the ICC cooperation and its foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday affirming their commitment to the Rome Statute.

Darfur rebels and human rights organizations condemned the decision saying it grants impunity to a war indicted individual.

The Botswanaian Vice President said that Africa should not try to undermine the work of the ICC just because “one head of state called Bashir” had been indicted by it, he said.

“The chair did not permit much debate on this matter and therefore we did not get an opportunity to put our opinion across” he said.

African diplomats said that the Libyan backed text was agreed to at the foreign ministers level through a vote and at the leadership meeting with a consensus.

“Consensus usually means unanimity, but in this case there was some dissent," said Benin Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou, who said objections by Chad or others would likely be added as caveats to the final summit declaration.

Sudan Tribune has not managed to obtain a copy of the final resolution from the Sirte summit.

The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq dismissed Botswana’s stance saying they are obliged to adhere to the AU decision and added there are no diplomatic ties that exist between teh two countries anyways.

Merafhe expressed disappointment over the AU saying it needs “to get its priorities right if the hope of functional unity among African countries and peoples is to be kept alive”.

“Until we can all appreciate what democracy, rule of law, respect for fellow Africans and the dignity of others mean in practice, Africa has a very long way to go”