Home | News    Tuesday 24 January 2006

Congo to chair African Union instead of Sudan

Jan 24, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — A special African Union panel will propose on Tuesday Congo Republic should become next head of the 53-nation organisation instead of Sudan after critics said a Sudanese presidency would damage the AU’s reputation.

Denis Sassou Nguesso

The five-nation panel was set up on the first day of a two-day AU summit on Monday to break a deadlock over Sudan’s leadership bid. Critics say a Sudanese presidency would hurt the AU’s mission to promote democracy and human rights.

"The committee met and decided to propose the rotation (of the presidency) to Central Africa," said one member of the panel on condition of anonymity.

Another panel member said Congo Republic would be the Central African candidate and that the committee would also propose Sudan could become AU head next year.

On the first day of the summit in Khartoum, African nations were deeply split about Sudan, which put itself forward for the presidency based on a tradition that the summit host takes over as the AU’s head. Sudan wants to succeed Nigeria.

Critics say Sudan would be the wrong choice as leader when it faces accusations of human rights abuses in Darfur in west Sudan, where a 7,000-strong AU force is trying to uphold a tentative truce between the government and rebels.

The rebels said late on Monday they had suspended peace talks to protest against Sudan’s candidacy and would withdraw from the AU-sponsored peace process in Nigeria if Sudan became head of the organisation.

Some African nations are wary of breaking a tradition of a rotating presidency and possibly handing Nigeria another term after it has already held the post for nearly two years.

"WISE STEP"

Sudan said on Monday it would be ready to withdraw to avoid a split in the AU, set up in 2002 to promote democracy, human rights and development across the continent.

Some political analysts said a decision by the AU not to appoint Sudan would show the organisation was determined not to be deflected from its aims and could improve its credibility among Western donors.

"It will be seen as a wise step," said a U.N. official, who asked not to identified as he was an observer at the summit.

African nations failed to reach a deal on Monday despite hours of talks behind closed doors that delegates said included some heated exchanges between rival camps.

"I hope things will go better (on Tuesday)," AU Commission President Alpha Oumar Konare told Reuters.

Sudan has said it has the backing of North and East Africa, but diplomats say southern, western and central African countries have been urging Khartoum to withdraw its nomination.

To break the deadlock, the AU picked Egypt, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Djibouti and Burkina Faso — representing Africa’s five regions — to propose a solution.

"Whatever is agreed (by the five-nation panel) will be accepted. The negotiations have been very difficult. People are tired. They will agree because there is no room for any more discussion," said Western Sahara representative Khadad Mhamed.

The debate has overshadowed the summit’s official agenda, which was to focus on culture and education.

Human rights issues, such as setting up the first pan-African human rights court, are also being discussed.

(Reuters)