ICC NOTE: Sudan’s central government’s notion of nominating itself to chair the AU summit is highlighted in this article. The idea that Khartoum would chair a summit, where one of the main priorities is to discuss human rights is troubling. A government who denies the atrocities in Darfur and was nominated by Transparency International as one of the 20 most corrupt nations in the world. What will be next for Christians in the South who have been treated in such a similar fashion?
Sudan asked to drop bid to lead AU
Mon Jan 23, 2006
By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Five African leaders have asked Sudan to withdraw a bid to head the African Union that has prompted worries it could sink the Darfur peace talks and dent the group’s credibility, an AU official said on Monday.
Sudan has nominated itself to chair the 53-member AU, based on a tradition that the host becomes the next head. Sudan , which is under fire for rights abuses, would take over from Nigeria .
However, Khartoum ‘s bid has provoked criticism from rights groups which say a Sudanese presidency would damage AU efforts to improve the continent’s record on democracy and human rights, and is opposed by several African regional blocs.
An AU official told Reuters that five heads of state had met Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday and told him “there was a consensus that he should withdraw”.
“Bashir said he would consult with his neighbouring countries and reply,” the official said. He said the five nations included Nigeria , whose president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has already led the AU for two years.
“It is looking like the compromise is for Obasanjo to stay because then Bashir will save some face,” the official said.
An AU force of 7,000 troops is monitoring a tentative truce between the government and rebels in Darfur in western Sudan , and critics, including the United States , say it would be inappropriate for Sudan to head the group leading that force.
Darfur rebels have said they would walk out of AU-sponsored peace talks in Nigeria if Sudan becomes head.
Sudan has said it has the backing of North and East Africa, but diplomats say southern, western and central Africa have been trying to encourage Sudan to withdraw its nomination.
Sudan had initially said it would not withdraw, but Sudanese officials said on Sunday it would consider such a move if asked.
Leaving Nigeria as head emerged as a possible compromise in preparatory meetings for the summit of the AU, set up in 2002 to promote democracy, human rights and development in Africa .
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said West Africa would welcome Nigeria staying, but some fear extending Nigeria ‘s tenure could undermine the principle of a rotating head.
“There is still a strong feeling that there should be rotation and that Obasanjo should not become the permanent chair of the AU,” said one North African diplomat.
Diplomats said another possibility which emerged during discussions among foreign ministers was for central Africa to put up a candidate, possibly Congo Republic .
Officials said a small group of African states had gathered to reach a decision about the presidency before the formal opening of the summit, which Sudanese officials said 36 heads of state would attend.
The tussle over the presidency has overshadowed preparations for the meeting that aims to focus on education and culture. Human rights has also been high on the agenda.