'King of kings' Kadhafi muscles back into African Union



KAMPALA, Aaron Maasho- Six months after reluctantly handing over the African Union presidency, Libya's maverick leader Moamer Kadhafi has tried once again to stamp his authority and his petrodollars on the body's agenda.
The first phase of his attempted reconquest at this week's AU summit in Kampala was the now predictable Kadhafi roadshow, comprised of a retinue of traditional kings as well as young supporters plastering the city with posters of the leader and lining the roads with welcome banners.



'King of kings' Kadhafi muscles back into African Union
"We came to meet the great leader, a leader who initiated the African Union," Sheikh Harun Ssengooba, a Ugandan representative of the Union of Muslim Councils for Eastern and Southern Africa told AFP.
Ushered in with flags whose green colour owed more to the Libyan revolution than AU livery, Kadhafi was then flanked at the opening ceremony by some of the colourful tribal leaders who crowned him "King of Kings of Africa" in 2008.
The notoriously extravagant leader was alone of the more than 30 heads of state staying at the Speke Munyonyo resort outside Kampala to have a tent set up on the grounds and a private entrance to the hotel.
But while Kadhafi was once again the summit's chief entertainer, he has had his work cut out to re-assert his political clout.
Kadhafi's tenure as AU chairman in 2009 caused some embarassment in the organisation, with many diplomats irked by his habit of bypassing the AU Commission, its executive body.
The veteran leader, who was never elected but has ruled Libya since 1969, tried to cling to his chairmanship of the organisation in January but eventually had to yield to Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika in a vote.
This year's summit in Uganda has been dominated by the aftermath of deadly bombings in Kampala and pledges to adopt a more decisive approach to solving Somalia's woes.
But diplomats said Kadhafi's ministers forced the inclusion in the summit's agenda of a discussion on the United States of Africa, which has been his pet project for years but remains a divisive issue among member states.
"They (the Libyan delegation) kept us awake until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. by insisting on the inclusion of a different issue," one diplomat told AFP.
To counter his own agenda's loss of momentum, Kadhafi stuck to a tried and tested method.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said Kadhafi was offering 90 billion dollars to help achieve a continental union.
"Now, it's a question of defining the mechanism by which we should use this money," Wade told a meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) last week in Chad.
On Monday, Kadhafi left the heads of state meeting and laid out some chairs under a tree to meet with presidents individually as his staff made tea.
Kadhafi has also made it clear what he thought of the summit's official theme, which focuses on maternal and child health in Africa.
"Maternity and infants? We are not UNICEF. Those things are UNICEF's job," he said in Chad.
CEN-SAD is a key recipient of Libyan cash but Kadhafi received a cooler reception from his peers at the AU summit.
The meeting's host, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, lashed out at "terrorists from the Middle East" in his opening, causing unease in the attendance, not least among the Arab heads of state.
"Let them go back to Asia or the Middle East where I understand some come from," said Museveni, whose regime has been coming increasingly under the influence of pentecostal Christian churches.
As a rebel leader in the early 1980s, Museveni sent several of his top deputies to Libya for training and has publicly acknowlegded that the oil-rich Libyan regime financially supported his guerrilla war.
After Museveni took power, Kadhafi visited Kampala often and certainly left his mark by funding a massive mosque named in his honour on a hilltop that towers over much of the city.
But the relationship has cooled in recent years, notably because Museveni has more or less dismissed Kadhafi's United States of Africa, which foresees a single government for the entire continent.
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Tuesday, July 27th 2010
Aaron Maasho
           


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