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Gaddafi condemns Africa democracy

Muammar Gaddafi at opening of the AU summit in Addis Ababa, 3 February 2009
Col Gaddafi was elected as the African Union's new head this week

The new African Union (AU) chairman, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi, has said that multi-party democracy in Africa leads to bloodshed.

Speaking at the AU summit in Ethiopia, Col Gaddafi said Africa was essentially tribal and political parties became tribalised, which led to bloodshed.

He concluded the best model for Africa was his own country, where opposition parties are not allowed.

Analysts say the AU is in for an interesting year under Col Gaddafi.

The BBC's Mark Doyle, at the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, says many may wonder what direction the 53-member organisation will take under his leadership over the next 12 months.

Our parties are tribal parties - that is what has led to bloodshed
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi

At the final press conference of the summit on Wednesday, Col Gaddafi sought to back up his argument by citing other countries like Kenya, where elections in December 2007 were followed by ethnic killings, and war-torn Somalia.

"We don't have any political structures [in Africa], our structures are social," Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.

"Our parties are tribal parties - that is what has led to bloodshed."

The Libyan leader's remarks could prove controversial in a continent where people have struggled for decades to have more open systems of government, says our correspondent.

He adds it seems likely activists who have fought for multi-party democracy in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal may profoundly disagree with the new AU chairman.

Gaddafi 'despair'

While these activists accept that ethnicity plays a big role in African politics, they insist the advantages of democracy over dictatorship are undeniable.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

The summit had to be extended into a fourth day after disagreements over Col Gaddafi's plan to create a United States of Africa.

The Libyan leader envisages a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.

Col Gaddafi had used his inaugural address as rotating head of the AU to push his long-cherished unity project and called for integration to begin immediately.

But many of his fellow leaders said the proposal would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

They said they would study the unity proposal, make a report and meet again in three months time.

In other words, our correspondent says, they are kicking the ball into the long grass.

One participant in the closed-door AU meeting said Col Gaddafi appeared to admit defeat and laid his head on the table in despair, before he swept out.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said: "He didn't walk out, he just got tired."

Before arriving at the summit, Col Gaddafi circulated a letter saying he was coming as the king of the traditional kings of Africa.

Last August, he had a group of 200 traditional leaders name him the "king of kings" of Africa.

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