Nana Rosine Ngangoue

Contonou - Although some African leaders support Libya's idea to form a confederation of African states, many remain skeptical of the feasibility of such a noble political ideal.

The heads of 43 African states, who attended a special Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Sirte, Libya, on Sep 8-9 would like to realise former Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah's 1963 pan-Africanist dream of "a united, proud, strong, and commanding" Africa.

However, not many seem enthusiastic about Libya's proposal.

"If Libya's initiative represents an attempt to rekindle our energies, that in itself is positive. But if anyone thinks we're going to come out of the Sirte summit with a United States of Africa, they're kidding themselves," says Kamanda Wa Kamanda, former Assistant Secretary General of the OAU.

Kamanda Wa Kamanda, who was also Minister of Foreign Affairs in the former Zaire, now renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), told the weekly 'L'Autre Afrique' newspaper that a United States of Africa needs to stand on a more solid foundation, not on rhetorics.

The view from across Africa, with a population of about 700 million, is that, as is stands now, the region is not ready for confederation.

More than 15 African countries, torn by strive, are disintegrating under the weight of ethnic conflicts. Likewise, the majority of Africa's 53 countries, are encountering problems in their quests to democratise.

"The creation of a United States of Africa is nothing more than an appealing utopia. We'll have to maybe wait until the year 10 000 for a dream like that to come true on this continent, which has been in turmoil since the 1960s", says Tshidibi Ngodavi, a Congolese political analyst.

Many believe the best plan right now will be to promote regional groupings, as a preliminary step toward forging the concept of "one Africa".

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Musseveni, seems to like the idea. He believes that such a debate should dwell on the issue of Pan-Africanism and the necessity of consolidating regional blocs.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the president of Algeria, who is the current chairperson of the OAU, believes that Africa should guarantee that it can manage such a union before organising one.

Another decision by the African heads of state to revise the 36-year-old OAU charter has also sparked debate on the continent.

While observers recognise the OAU's limited powers, especially in the area of preventing and resolving conflicts, they blame African leaders for lack of will to enforce the Pan-African body's charter.

Many believe that the OAU charter is an invaluable document whose sole faults are that it is not effectively enforced by the member states.

"In my opinion, the problem with the OAU is not so much in revising its charter or by-laws, but rather in enforcing and observing the provisions which have been universally accepted, and which each member state has committed itself to respect," says Kamanda Wa Kamanda.

The OAU charter, in itself, is not lacking in good ideas applicable to the continent's woes, characterised by conflicts, increasing poverty, and a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights.

The OAU's goals, as enshrined in the charter's first article, call on the signatories to coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts in order to provide the people of Africa with the best possible living conditions.

The signatories also have committed themselves to improving international cooperation by upholding the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Other principles, such as non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, the peaceful resolution of differences through negotiation, mediation, conciliation or arbitration, and the unequivocal condemnation of political assassination are all included in the OAU charter.

But 36 years after the body's inception, it is widely acknowledged that these fundamental precepts have been flouted.

DRC President, Laurent-Desire Kabila, says any revision of the OAU charter should put greater emphasis on coercive action in cases where its principles are violated.

"We're in favour of changing the OAU charter to allow sanctions for those who violate it. If the OAU wants to survive, it will have to have the power to make its members observe its charter," he says, adding that, "Why should the members respect it if they can violate it with impunity?"

The Sirte summit has been a major diplomatic success for Libyan leader Muamar Ghadafi, who is emerging from eight years of international isolation.

The overwhelming attendance of African heads of state shows that he still commands considerable political influence over the continent.

Libya also demonstrated its economic clout by announcing the cancellation of debt owed to the OAU by eight of the continent's countries.

The Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Eritrea, Liberia, Nigeria, and the Seychelles had been excluded from OAU meetings for two years, while they owed the organisation $4,5 million (R27 million). - Sapa-IPS