Heads of State of the Organisation of African Unity (O.A.U.) began their four-day summit conference?
Heads of State of the Organisation of African Unity (O.A.U.) began their four-day summit conference in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu on Wednesday (12 June). It is being held in the Somali capital for the first time.
Leaders and representatives of the 42 African member-nations were present. Somali leader, Mohammed Siad Barre, was elected Chairman of the O.A.U. He took over from Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon. President Barre will hold the post for one year. He was nominated by Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda, who described the Somali leader as a "distinguished son of Africa".
The 24 Heads of State and Government attending the summit chose eight Vice Presidents for the meeting -- the representatives of Zaire, Sierre Leone, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Cameroun, Botawana and Guinea-Bissau.
President Barre opened the conference with a pledge for a militant programme to revamp the O.A.U. structure and prepare for possible conflict with South Africa. The African socialist leader said the O.A.U. should quickly set up a special force which could be mobilised immediately if war with South Africa appeared imminent. "The inevitable confrontation between them (the white minority) regimes of southern Africa and independent Africa has now become stark naked", he said -- adding, "we now have to face up to this confrontation ... In the long run, of course, Africa cannot possibly lose".
The Somali leader also told the O.A.U. leaders -- who represent some 40 million people on the continent -- that they should not hesitate to use the organisation to set up national institutions to effect proper unity and co-operation in economic and other spheres. He proposed changing the O.A.U. from a purely administrative body into a "dynamic executive organ".
The situation in Portugual's African territories following the Lisbon coup in April is a major topic of this year's summit and was reflected in the speeches by Heads of State from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nigeria and Somalia. The Untied Nations' Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim -- who is also attending the meeting -- told delegates on Thursday that there would be an early meeting between the O.A.U. and the Portuguese Foreign Minister Mario Soares.
But, at the opening session, the African leaders demanded an unequivocal declaration from the Portuguese that independence was the inalienable right of the people in Guinea-Pissau, Angola and Mozambique.
All liberation movements fighting in Africa are represented at the Conference.
The O.A.U. has also proposed that member states donate a portion of their annual budget to countries in the drough-stricken sahel Region and East Africa.
As the first day's meetings drew to a close, Zambian Foreign Minister Vernon Mwaenga was being topped as the next Secretary-General of the O.A.U. ??? should replace Nzo Ekangaki of Cameroun, who announced his resignation last month after serving only half of his four-year term.
The next O.A.U. Council of Ministers meeting will be held in Addis Ababa--the O.A.U.'s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital--since no country has offered to host it, according to Conference sources on Thursday (13 June).
SYNOPSIS: Mogadishu airport, where -- on Wednesday -- the Somali President Siad Barre, welcomed African Heads of State to his capital. Liberian President Tolbert was one of the firs to arrive on that day.
The Guinea Prime Minsiter followed soon afterards. The Africen leaders were gathering in the Somali capital for the eleventh annual meeting of the D.A.U.
Upper Volta's President Lamizana was also welcomed by President Barre. This was the first time that Mogadishu had hosted the O.A.U.'s annual conference.
Indeed, it was a big day for Somalia as the remaining ten of the twenty four African Heads of State to attend the meeting arrived at Mogadishu. The popular figure of President Sese Seko Mobutu of Zaire was one of the last arrivals.
The airport arrivals were concluded by that of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie -- a founder member of the O.A.U.
The Peoples' Hall in central Mogadishu, where the four days' summit talks opened on Wednesday. President Nyerere of Tanzania was an early arrival.
Nigeria's President Gowon was welcomed by O.A.U. Secretary-General Ekangaki -- who comes from Cameroun.
President Boumedienne of Algiers was also there...
....as was the colourful President of Uganda -- Idi Amin.
Inside the hall, President Gowon opened the meetings. He then relinquished his post as Chairman of the O.A.U. to President Barre. The African leaders were faced with a long list of topics for discussion which had been prepared by their Foreign Minister during the previous week.
Before the serious business began, President Gowon introduced a choir of schoolchildren who entertained the delegates with a ceremonial song.
But, President Barre brought the conference quickly to the business in hand. He told the assembly -- who represent forty million people in Africa -- that a special military force, comprising all members of the O.A.U., should be set up to mobilise against South Africa.... should the need arise. He also called on O.A.U. members to strengthen co-operation in economic and other spheres and demanded more dynamic action form them.