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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
AU summit: Reporter's diary
African Union leaders are meeting for a three-day summit in Accra, Ghana. The BBC's Will Ross is recording his experiences at the convention in a diary.

TUESDAY 3 JULY

2300 GMT

The journalists have all been called into the conference hall finally and the presidents are on their way out.

A little earlier as we waited and waited outside the conference hall I had wondered how many presidents were still in the hall. Had they sneaked out the back door hours ago and left a foolish looking bunch of journalists outside a huge hall with just a television blaring inside?

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade says he's pleased with the outcome as he heads for the door but we are about to find out the Senegalese and Libyans have little to celebrate.

Colonel Gaddafi
Gaddafi's push for a single African government was doomed from the start
The presidents have agreed to move towards a single government for the entire African continent but no timetable was set. So you would think as the tortoises inch forward the hares would be disappointed as they are disqualified for a false start.

With the differences of opinion over political integration that this summit revealed, such a compromise was the only possible outcome short of a huge punch up. But the planners always seat the leaders who aren't getting on too well a safe distance from each other.

The cynics will say an agreement to set up a committee to look into the move towards one government is hardly an earth shattering breakthrough.

But when you sit down and think about it, wasn't the call for a government NOW a ludicrous proposition in the first place? I mean thanks for putting the fuel in the talk Colonel Gaddafi but really I think you can swap the Ferrari for a camel.

Right I'm off to see how much they are selling these flash cars for now that the summit is over.

"Black Mercedes. Just three days old. Tinted windows and we'll throw in the white gloves. One careful owner."

Oh and the new houses too. "Did Omar Bongo really use this bathtub?"

Just heard the BBC's Alan Johnston has been freed. You can fill that bathtub with champagne.

TUESDAY 3 JULY

1500 GMT

Back at the conference centre, the presidents are off for lunch.

AU Chairman Ghana President John Kufuor (l) and AU Commission Deputy Chair Patrick Mazimhaka of Rwanda
The leaders at the summit look set for a late finish

This could be a late finish.

Some here at the summit have argued that the African integration should copy the European Union model.

But let's hope the African presidents don't intend to copy the EU leaders and talk all night.

But in the VIP room, the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has been stressing the need to move fast to a pan-African government.

He's talking about how much Portugal has benefited from the EU.

But what Senegal is pushing for goes way far beyond the EU model.

It's make up your mind time Senegal, do you want to follow the EU model or the USA?

TUESDAY 3 JULY

1430 GMT

I've just been to Oxford Street - yes Ghana has one too - found other ex-millionaires studying the new currency outside the bank.

Akosombo dam on the new Ghanaian bank note
Right now Ghanaians wish they had 10 such dams as regular power cuts bite

One man proudly opened a brand new wallet to reveal the crisp banknotes bearing the faces of six Ghanaian independence leaders, including the pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah.

On the other side of the note is a picture of the Akosombo Hydroelectric Dam - dubbed an overambitious project when Nkrumah started it but right now Ghanaians wish they had 10 such dams as regular power cuts bite.

Another man emerged from the bank with a puzzled look on his face as he tried to work out the value of a handful of coins.

He better find the woman cross the road selling brightly coloured cloth - she seems at ease working out the currency conversions.

"It's just like being in school," she tells me. "You simply have to divide, minus, subtract and add."

Apparently the men selling the Ghanaian football shirts further down the road need calculators, they're selling the shirts at a tenth of the normal price.

TUESDAY 3 JULY

1300 GMT

I have got my hands on the Ugandan president's speech. He is cross-breeding the tortoise and the hare - fast-track African integration in some areas but not all. In the hare and tortoise race towards a single African government he does not want to cross the finish line.

Wade and Gaddafi
The hares are putting pressure on the tortoises

Yoweri Museveni is firmly against political integration at the continental level: "It will bring together incompatible linkages that may create tension rather than cohesion. This will especially be so if you bring together groups which want to impose their identity on others. I cannot give up my identity for anything."

"While economically I support the integration with everybody, politically we should only integrate with people who are either similar or compatible."

He prefers the strengthening of regional blocks and talks of the current reason for fast-tracking the federation process in East Africa - where he says it can work because people have much in common in that region especially when it comes to similar languages.

The Ugandan president says there are definitely functions that can best be done at the continental level and he lists the environment, trade negotiations, managing a defence pact and, later on, managing and promoting an African common market. "If the African Commission could concentrate on these four instead of being everywhere and nowhere, we would start moving forward," he told the summit of presidents.

In what seemed to be a wink to Gaddafi and the hares, Yoweri Museveni said, "I salute the enthusiasm of those who advocate for continental government now. I however do not want us to move from one mistake - Balkanization - to another mistake of over-simplification of very complex situations".

TUESDAY 3 JULY

0900 GMT

Still very quiet at the conference centre but this is the last day so the question is are the heads of state going to agree on anything stronger than an old agreement in which they agreed to agree to unite?

Old cedi banknote
The old 5,000 cedi note is now worth just half a cedi
Today is also a historic day for Ghana's economy. Not one, not two, not three but FOUR zeros are being knocked off the currency - the cedi.

The idea being that if you want to go shopping you won't need a fork lift truck to move your cash.

The banks should be open after yesterday's public holiday, so the new cedi notes should be out and by chopping the zeros, the cedi is suddenly going to be worth more than a dollar.

In what could be very confusing, the old and new cedi currency will both be used for six months.

If you are keen to invest in Ghana I have a tip - sell money-counting machines and buy wallets. Having been totally redundant for years, they are going to make a comeback.

The Ghanaian economy is relatively stable and is forecast to grow at 6% this year - so this is not a crisis move but it should make business easier.

With a new regional currency due in a couple of years, some are questioning the need for this change now.

Establishing a common currency is one of the goals for the African Union but so far the regional economic blocks, like the East African Community, have been inching their way towards one currency.

I'm not sure if many of the visiting presidents dirty their suit pockets with cash but I'll look out for them in the queue at the cashpoint machine.

Yesterday I was a millionaire. Today I am not.

MONDAY 2 JULY

1700 GMT

Libya is not the only hare in the house. Senegal has joined the "One African Government Now" camp.

Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio has described African unity as a matter of survival and said his President Abdoulaye Wade is here with his pen ready to sign right now.

The Senegalese foreign minister said it was highly unlikely that all 53 African countries would ever agree on any given day to unite under one government and so he suggested a small group of states could sign up anyway and wait for others to follow.

"If Senegal wants to build this union with two, three, four more countries, there is not a country in this room that has enough power to tell Senegal you cannot do it," he said.

Hang on, does this mean we could have two Africas this time tomorrow? Have I got the right visa? Help!

1445 GMT

Ghana's foreign minister, Nana Akufo Addo - whose assistant I badgered for an interview all day yesterday - is sitting next to our umbrella and is ready to talk.

Does he think Muammar Gaddafi is going to be disappointed as it looks as though the tortoises are dominating the debate?

"We're not talking of disappointments or victories and defeats here. You know the problems you have in the European Union with 27 countries trying to arrive at common positions," he says.

"We are 53 countries so clearly there will be problems... but the 53 will find a way and a consensus for the future direction of our organisation."

I wonder what the minister makes of the suggestion that with the summit focused on the African unity debate, urgent issues such as Darfur are being overlooked.

"All of this is towards finding a better way of organising our affairs which is bound to have an impact on some of these crises - the conflict in Somalia, the problems in Darfur.

"So we shouldn't be put in an "either or" situation. With the greatest respect it is all part of the double standards with which matters African are always considered by, if I may so, the western media," he says.

"You have several problems in Europe - it doesn't stop people meeting in all night in Brussels to decide whether or not to call something a treaty."

So does Nana Akufo Addo think that one day he will be voting for a president for the whole of Africa?

"I hope so," he says. "If we go about it in an organized manner we will get there".

1430 GMT

It looks like I am not going to make the Mugabe meeting and nobody is sure if he is.

The debate among the presidents is continuing and the journalists are all struggling to get snippets of information.

The security team had been allowing a small group of journalists into the hall to witness the presidents' presentations but I am told a large delegation of Libyan pressmen forced their way into the venue and now everybody has been sent out.

1400 GMT

It is still virtually impossible to know what is going on inside the conference centre but a journalist has sneaked out a copy of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's script.

He talked of the benefits of integration and better bargaining power on the international stage.

He also spoke, like Gaddafi, about the individual countries being too weak militarily - but called for a pooling of resources to overcome that and the need for a pan-African standby force.

But that's where the similarity with Gaddafi seems to end.

Kibaki talks of accelerating integration via the regional economic blocks - it's sounding like a different pace from Gaddafi's call for integration NOW.

1030 GMT

I have headed to a church hall in Osu where President Robert Mugabe is due to speak a little later on at an event organised by a pan-Africanist Movement.

On the way along the narrow streets, men are pushing around wooden carts laden with water drums.

President Robert Mugabe
We need Mugabe, we need him forever
Ghanaian woman
Access to clean water is a real problem in the Ghanaian capital and many people have to pay more than 10 US cents a bucketful.

Outside the church hall reggae music is playing and there are a few men and one woman wearing orange T-shirts with pictures of Robert Mugabe and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's independence leader and pan-Africanist. They tell me the BBC's coverage of Zimbabwe is biased but agree to talk.

"Robert Mugabe represents freedom for Africa. You can't have a very small percentage of white people, westerners, owning 90% of the land - that's not on. Africa is for the Africans.

"White people are always welcome here, don't get me wrong. We don't hate anybody but the percentage of our land has to belong to us."

Robert Mugabe has had close ties with Ghana - his late first wife was Ghanaian.

A woman at the church hall is from the same town, Sekondi, and tells me she got to know the Zimbabwean president as he visited the area every year.

"The world is misrepresenting him. We need a leader like Mugabe to lead Africa because Africa is for Africans.

"The land belongs to us. He is the right man to fight for us. We need Mugabe, we need him forever."

Plus

Another man tells me he has been living in Ghana since 1999 and before that lived in the UK for 38 years so he tells me he knows and understands British behaviour very well.

"Whenever Europeans give praise to a black leader then we realise that black man is not doing his job concerning his people. The very fact that the white world is against Mr Mugabe is a plus for us.

"AU is a good thing but I have one concern. Will Africa be united as a neo-colonialist block or will it be united as a free Africa."

"No African owns vast amounts of farmland in Europe or America. No African can, so I don't see why Europeans should come and take our gold, our bauxite, our rubber, our timber, our oil."

After he tells me the sanctions against Mugabe should be lifted, I mention that on the car radio I had just heard an interview with a Zimbabwean man saying he was trained by the security forces in Zimbabwe to torture people including locking somebody in a truck and dumping the truck in a lake.

"Mr Mugabe is fighting for his people - therefore the white world will concoct any kind of story. I would not believe that Mr Mugabe himself sanctioned it."

We wait to see if Robert Mugabe attends the meeting. He has already spoken here of the need for better African unity, stating that aid will never allow Africa to prosper.

0930 GMT

The motorcades are back at the conference centre ferrying in the presidents - it is a closed session, so no media access.

0100 GMT

Loud sustained gunfire in Accra. No no. Alarm over! It's a fireworks display but from where I am it's all bangs and no lights.

SUNDAY 1 JULY

1615 GMT

I get a chance to interview Don McKinnon, the secretary general of the Commonwealth.

On the issue of a pan-African government he tells me, "Some African leaders want it tomorrow but I'm not sure they are in the majority."

HAVE YOUR SAY
I want to buy the idea of having a United States of Africa but let's first of all try to resolve the issue in Sudan and Zimbabwe
Lucien Momoh, Freetown

In fact when it comes to the speed of integration we have a clear hare and tortoise scenario. Muammar al-Gaddafi is the only out and out hare but it would seem he is outnumbered by the tortoises.

I asked Don McKinnon if he was worried that Darfur had been nudged off the agenda by the United States of Africa debate. He points out that it was on the agenda last time and says that was very much the reason why Sudan didn't get the AU presidency.

"The fact is leaders are much more acutely conscious of what others are thinking about their actions," he tells me.

But what about the fact that President Bashir hasn't shown up in Ghana?

The Commonwealth chief says he can't comment on that but adds:

"African politics is no different from other politics around the world - there are a lot of personalities involved, a lot of egos involved and a lot of history. Sometimes we forget some of things that happened 30 or 40 years ago between African states are still very raw in their minds and that's just a human characteristic."

1530 GMT

We have failed to interview any foreign ministers, let alone presidents, but hopefully the security level may be lowered a millimetre or two tomorrow to enable us to at least catch a distant glimpse of a politician without facing the wrath of the men with guns. I'll bring binoculars just in case.

AU leaders in Accra
Many tortoises, but few hares to be seen at the AU
The head of the United Nations Refugee Agency has agreed to an interview. I asked if he was disappointed issues like Darfur were not high on the summit agenda. But Antonio Guterres did not seem too worried and he says it is no surprise that President Bashir has not turned up, given that the AU chairmanship was taken away from Sudan over the Darfur issue - a move which one journalist told me was perhaps the only significant achievement of the AU since its creation.

Mr Guterres disagrees and suggests without the AU the recent acceptance by Sudan to allow a joint AU UN peacekeeping force into Darfur wouldn't have happened and nor would we be at a stage where peace talks are possible.

There are many who find the whole idea of a United States of Africa nothing more than a fanciful recurring dream.

And judging by the photo one journalist snapped of Robert Mugabe taking a snooze during the opening of the summit, there may have been a few dreams going on there too. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzimbabwe.

A colleague suggests the leaders' snoozes should be timed and a table of the top dreamers compiled.

But the head of the UN refugee agency is glad African integration is being discussed.

"Political economic and social integration is the best way we know in the world both for the effective promotion of developments and for the prevention of conflicts and to solve conflicts."

1430 GMT

Opening session of the ninth session of the African Union summit, Accra
Journalists were barred from the opening ceremony
News of a gift from China for Africa. The meeting apparently ended with a presentation about the buildings that China is going to construct for the AU. A multi-storey building headquarters in Addis Ababa is on the list.

1410 GMT
News starts to trickle out of what's been going on inside the venue. Ghana's President John Kufuor said that given the formation of political and economic groupings on other continents, Africa can be said to be running against time in its efforts at integration. But he did not say how far he thinks the integration should go or at what speed. He didn't say if he was in the hare camp like Gaddafi or if he is in the tortoise camp.

1315 GMT
The presidents are leaving the venue and heading off for lunch. They are not due back here until tomorrow but we assume they won't get a 20-hour lunch. I have just found out that there are many late-comers. The Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, for example, is not due in Ghana until tonight.

1240 GMT
A Ghanaian lady dressed in pink is at the head of a group of frustrated journalists walking towards the venue entry with a petition calling for access. It doesn't seem to be working and the arguments with the security guards are getting louder.

1115 GMT
Although we were supposed to be able to access the opening ceremony, journalists were barred and have been sent away to the media tent. The media, unlike Colonel Gaddafi, is tiring of life in a tent. It is frustrating and difficult to find out what is happening inside the venue.

0945 GMT
The sirens are getting louder and the presidents' convoys are beginning to screech into the venue with more security guards, these ones jogging beside the cars.

Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi, Ghanaian President John Kufuor and South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki get together for a photo
Ghanaian President John Kufuor gave the opening speech
0740 GMT
Not happy has now turned to fury. "We told you to move. Now remove them," yells the security co-ordinator as his deputies march off with our satellite equipment under their arms. If they had stayed long enough I would have told them it's not wise to hug a satellite disk when it is switched on, unless you're trying a new form of contraception.

0730 GMT
Ghanaian security officials are not happy with the position we've chosen for our live reporting for BBC World. Our camera is under a tree, about 150m from the conference centre. We've been asked to move to the back of the venue - which would be ideal if we happened to be making a documentary about a day in the life of a catering company but not ideal for our needs.

0700 GMT
Heading for the venue the long way round, roads are blocked off all over the place.

SATURDAY 30 JUNE

Colonel Gaddafi
Gaddafi has chosen to stay in a tent rather than a presidential lodge

2330 GMT
As Muammar Gaddafi zips up his tent somewhere in Accra the other leaders getting ready for the three-day African Unity debate are probably pacing up and down their brand new homes learning the words for "Not so fast Muammar."

2000 GMT
On the radio I learn the list of presidents not attending the summit has grown to at least two.

The Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, is not turning up and that has caused some anger here. More than 40 Ghanaians died in mysterious circumstances in the Gambia two years ago and there have been allegations that the Gambian security services were involved.

With no investigation yet carried out, many here believe the Gambian leader has decided to stay at home to avoid awkward questions.

His claim that he can cure Aids by laying his hands on people and administering his own herbal remedy is also unlikely to face a close examination any time soon.

The other leader not attending is Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He is attending the funeral of a colleague but not surprisingly there are also accusations that he is choosing to stay out of the firing line - on Darfur.

Yahya Jammeh
The absence of the Gambian leader has caused some anger

He is instead sending long range verbal missiles from Khartoum via a satellite news conference beamed around the world.

"Sudan has enemies who want to tear Sudan and seize its wealth, especially oil, and because of this we are targeted by organised media campaigns that broadcast to the world that there has been genocide and ethnic cleansing," he has said.

1715 GMT
Waiting for a lift back to the conference centre I am handed a piece of paper.

It reads: "Pan Afrikan United Front warmly invites you to an international solidarity forum for Zimbabwe . Come and hear the truth about the fight against neo-colonialism and imperialism in Zimbabwe. Special Guest: Prez. Robert Mugabe. Solidarity dress code black trousers or skirts."

1700 GMT
As the red carpet is rolled up I interview a few members of the audience.

Most love the idea of African Unity and are glad Gaddafi is trying to push it, but they tell me it is not going to happen soon.

"If our leaders cannot sort out Darfur then how will they come together to solve the continent's problems," one student tells me.

1650 GMT
The shades are back on and the Libyan leader is off amid loud cheers.

1530 GMT
The crowd start cheering but then realise the man who has just walked into the room is a Gaddafi look alike - maybe he was sent in to test whether he would make a good body double.

If he had borrowed the Colonel's shades he would have got a bigger cheer.

Gaddafi is not far behind and arrives clenched fist in the air wearing a shirt emblazoned with the face of Pan African leaders.

Several serious looking women in army boots and camouflage guard have taken up positions guarding the stage and their eyes are darting around the room at an astonishing rate.

"Slogan Slogan" shouts one of his aides from the stage. "Long Live Gaddafi. Long Live Gaddafi," he adds. The crowd catch on slowly.

After about 99 introductory speeches, Muammar Gaddafi takes the microphone and shocks us all by starting off his speech in English.

"I am just a soldier for Africa. I am just a citizen of Africa like you," he says.

His message is clear and the crowd like it - he wants Africa to unite and to form one government for the whole continent.

He seems rather worried about African countries facing imminent invasion by a foreign force and so he calls for a Pan African army of two million soldiers.

"No one can attack Luxembourg," he declares. I must admit I did not expect to be scribbling the word Luxembourg in my notebook today but his point is that because Luxembourg is in the EU and Nato, Luxembourg is safe from attack (even by China, he says).

1500 GMT
Gaddafi seems to be on the way and the security men - mostly suited Libyans with dyed black hair - are getting twitchy.

I have just been politely called into a room off the hall to be frisked - I decline, saying a public frisk is as good as he is getting.

More security men are called over and the politeness is disappearing but I insist I will not be disappearing into a room with the men in the suits.

1440 GMT
The main university hall is packed and many people are wearing T-shirts with Gaddafi's face on them.

With free T-shirts and buses ferrying people to the venue - it could be an election anywhere in Africa . But hang on a minute, there is no election in Ghana so what is the Colonel up to?

He is campaigning for the mama of all elections - the United States Of Africa.

1400 GMT
Presidents from around the continent have been jetting in for the three-day African Union Summit.

But I am heading to Legon University to find an African leader who decided not come by air, although he may have used up more fuel than a Jumbo.

Muammar Gaddafi came by road in a huge convoy via Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast and apparently he is not staying in one of the newly-built presidential lodges, he has brought a tent - not a two-man tent I suppose.


SEE ALSO
AU summit focuses on government
01 Jul 07 |  Africa
Profile: African Union
08 May 07 |  Country profiles
Gaddafi urges pan-African state
26 Jun 07 |  Africa



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