ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar 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.
On the first day of a summit in Addis Ababa, Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika was selected to succeed Gaddafi, even though diplomats said Gaddafi was seeking another term.
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.
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.
Editing by Michael Roddy