26 May, 2004 - Published 14:27 GMT
After the opening session, the Commissioner of the new Council, Said Djinnit, told journalists that it would not be possible to solve all of Africa's problems, but at least it would now have a mandate to try. What distinguishes the African Union from its predecessor - the Organisation of African Unity - can be found tucked away in Article 4 (h) of its charter - the Constitutive Act. This allows the AU to intervene in a member state in what are called 'grave circumstances' - where there have been war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity. This is the political justification that now overrides the old cry - that any action without the permission of a member state would be interference in its internal affairs.
The real question now is whether the AU will have the muscle to put this into practice. The answer is - only slowly. Getting a robust force to back the African Union's political decisions will be some time in coming. Until then the United Nations will have to fill the void.
Martin Plaut, BBC
makes it different
the body which had its role before
cancels and replaces
the old cry
the usual comment (colloquial)
a robust force
a strong group of soldiers
fill the void
fill the space - here, step in to solve the problem