The18th African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian which officially opened last Monday, has assigned Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills major roles during the session of heads of State and Government.

Aside delivering the keynote address, which is on the theme “Boosting Intra African Trade,” President Mills would also be the Guest of Honour at the unveiling of the statue of late President Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah at the forecourt of the new AU building.

The conference center project, fully funded by the Chinese government and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), is China’s largest aid project for Africa in decades.

The building would be inaugurated next Saturday in the presence of all the Heads of State and Governments at the meeting.

The conference center covers an area of some 50, 000 square meters and will have a 2,550-seat hall, a 650-seat medium conference hall, five press conference rooms and two VIP rooms, among many other facilities.

According to Mr Koku Anyidoho, Director of Communications at the Office of the President, President Mills has invited Dr Francis Nkrumah and Madam Samia Nkrumah, Chairperson of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), who are both children of the first President, to join in the unveiling of the statue in honour of their father.

High on the agenda at the summit would be the voting to elect new leaders to the continental body.

While the AU typically promotes regional diversity in its leadership, some observers have noted that it would be better to favour countries that have best adhered to AU protocols.

The Summit will elect a new chairperson, likely to come from West Africa, to a one-year term.

The new Chair is usually selected on a rotating regional basis with leaders from North, South, East and West Africa getting a fair shot at the top seat.

Meanwhile, a tough diplomatic battle has taken shape at the Union ahead of the Presidential session to elect the Chairperson of the AU Commission.

The AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Jean Ping, elected to the position on February 1, 2008 and seeking re-election, is facing South Africa’s Interior Minister, Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is vying on a platform of change to the continental body, which her country blames for failing to prevent conflicts.

Dr Ping’s supporters say their candidate is almost certain of an absolute majority when the elections come on 29 January.

South Africa has proposed to delay the elections of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson during the AU’s Ministerial meeting on 26 January, but a counter proposal to delay the election of eight other commissioners has also been tabled.

Ghana’s candidate for the post of Political Affairs Commissioner has been withdrawn in favour of Aisha Laraba Abudulai, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Guinea.

From Benjamin Mensah, GNA Correspondent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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