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Published 13th July 2001

Vol 42 No 14

The last summit

At least two years of tough negotiations and fund-raising lie ahead if the new African Union is to win credibility

African leaders went to Lusaka to bury the Organisation of African Unity not to praise it. Old habits die hard, though. As 24 presidents and one king presided over the birth of the African Union on 9-11 July, they were haunted by the contradictions of conferences past. Just to remind them, outgoing OAU Chairman Gnassingbé Eyadéma spoke haltingly for an hour and a quarter from a printed text about the important work the organisation had achieved under his leadership. One of Africa's most brutal leaders, Eyadéma shot his way to power in Togo in 1967: under new OAU rules banning coup-makers, he should not have been allowed to attend the summit, let alone chair it. The contradiction between the two Africas - reformers versus corrupt despots - was evident throughout the conference. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke pointedly about HIV-AIDS and the responsibilities of African leaders for ten minutes; Eyadéma spoke pointlessly for 75. Undoubtedly, the OAU has progressed beyond what Uganda's Yoweri Museveni described as a 'trade union for dictators'. Both the African Union and the new economic recovery plan (see Box: Map meets compass) allow for unprecedented interventions by regional organisations in the internal affairs of African states. The economic plan speaks of financial benefits for those which meet reform targets; the plan wants an African regional organisation, not the World Bank, to measure governments' compliance with economic and even political reforms.

Map meets compass

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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One of the African Union's first tests will be to agree on an economic recovery plan and - harder - implement it. Amid the wreckage of earlier plans, the new big idea is to merge t...

Anglo accused

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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Activists are challenging Anglo American's role in the messy copper privatisation

Zambian activists accuse the mining giant Anglo American of breaching the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's code of conduct when the copper mines were privati...

Friends abroad, foes at home

Aid has restarted but dialogue has stalled and foreign troops stay put

President Joseph Kabila has convinced international donors that he is worth backing. Aid is starting, slowly and conditionally, to flow towards Kinshasa. In March, the European Uni...

Crimes against the state

The President still claims he won the war as his regime wobbles around him

The ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice is now deeply split. At the end of May, 15 leading members of the PFDJ's 75-member Central Council published an unprecedented op...


Those hoping to be in the dialogue include an astonishing 450-odd so-called political parties. Without elections, their strength is unknown. Very few have much backing. Genuine par...

Grit that glitters

Caught between blood diamonds and cheap copies, best friends move closer

The global diamond market is under pressure - from recession in North America, from 'blood diamonds' fuelling wars in Africa and from synthetic imitations. For Botswana, the threat...


Les jeux sont faits

Francophone dignitaries are gathered in Ottawa, Canada, and its Québecois sister-city, Hull, for the 2001 Jeux de la Francophonie, starting, appropriately enough, on 14 July...