The abandoning of this year's summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Libya is a setback both for the organization and for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
The summit, scheduled for Aug. 5 to 8 in Tripoli, could not be held because a two-thirds quorum of the 51 members failed to turn up. Colonel Qaddafi publicly accused the United States of lobbying African governments for this kind of boycott in order to humiliate him.
Most of the absentees were protesting admission to OAU membership of the Polisario guerrillas in Western Sahara. These guerrillas are challenging Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory that has few inhabitants but is rich in phosphates.
A few of the absentees also had misgivings about Colonel Qaddafi's assumption of the OAU chairmanship for 1982-83, a position into which he would have been voted if a formal summit meeting had been held. The Libyan leader's policies in Africa are too radical for some other African heads of government.
Colonel Qaddafi held informal meetings in Tripoli Aug. 5 through 7 with those African leaders who did turn up for the summit - most of them from the radical camp - to try to devise a compromise to enable a formal meeting to go ahead. When these efforts failed late Aug. 7, the summit was abandoned.
Pessimists say this is the end of the OAU. Others expect the search for a compromise to continue so a summit can be held later in the year.
Presumably President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, OAU chairman for 1981-82, will continue in that office until a summit is held.
Such a summit would have to deal not only with the volatile issue of the chairmanship, but also with selection of a new OAU secretary-general. The term of Edem Kodjo of Togo - the man responsible for admitting the Polisario to OAU membership - has expired.