The African Union: a veritable progeny of pan-Africanism

By K. Diallo

What is Pan-Africanism? It has been a movement against imperialism in all its forms and for the liberation of Black Africans from the evils of Black enslavement, colonialism, and from the racism these produced.

What is Pan-Africanism? It has been a movement against imperialism in all its forms and for the liberation of Black Africans from the evils of Black enslavement, colonialism, and from the racism these produced.

Both as a philosophy and a movement, Pan-Africanism from the days of William Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and their like-minded contemporaries right down to the Founding Leaders of the OAU continued to linger on and inspire and spur generations of Africans into concrete action. But as any detailed recounting of the ancient history of the Pan-Africanist Movement would require a forum and space much wider than what this piece can cover, we should make do with a resumé that seeks to capture some of the features characterizing the construction and subsequent actualization of the African Union which to all intents and purposes is a natural progeny of Pan-Africanism traced back to the yesteryear’s of the first African awakening.

It was indeed against the backdrop of the burning desire to revive that Pan-African spirit that the idea of creating an African Union as a minimum requirement of total continental unity and integration resurfaced. It was, however spearheaded this time around by the Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi and fortunately resonated well with his peers. As it was an idea whose time had then arrived, Africa’s detractors could do very little to stem the tide of its resurgence. Therefore, despite the disparaging innuendoes of those Afro-pessimists and the frail misgivings of the doubting Thomases from within coupled with all the other odds, collective Africa at long last made history during its epoch-ushering in Summit in the Indian Ocean City of Durban on 9 July 2002.

US Africa Command - AFRICOM

If the African Union was what it is meant to be, AFRICOM with its commander in chief President Obama occupying almost the whole continent through intermediaries local warlords as presidents.

It was there that our leaders took the bull by the horn, thus crossing the politico-ideological Rubicon into the proclamation of the ultimate birth of the African Union on the debris of its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. By exhibiting that rare single feat of unity of purpose, direction and destiny the present crop of African leaders were able to bring their continent and its otherwise disparate nations much closer to allowing the wildest dream of Pan-African pioneers in the caliber of Osgeyfo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Julius Nyerere and their ilk to come to pass. There can be no gain saying that the launch of the African Union in the manner described herein with all the pomp and pageantry that accompanied the occasion was a single act that undoubtedly marked a spectacular, but still a defining moment in the annals of the continent’s incessant search for self-assertion through the pursuit of a greater solidarity and a higher level of integration and cooperation in all walks of life that cut right across the borders inherited from the erstwhile colonial masters.

The Constitutive Act serving as the legal linchpin of the Union edifice, has provided the requisite organs and institutions capable of causing the hitherto nascent Union to morph far beyond a mere declaration of intent by word of mouth into a broader and more efficacious and all-embracing continental organization already standing on its feet. The Pan-African Parliament, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, the African Investment Bank, the African Monetary Fund, among other organs, were all deliberately created to render the new reality of a continent determined to further consolidate its new Union status and gains both incontrovertible and irreversible.

The central role of the Regional Economic Communities as the building blocks of the Union, the Civil Society Organisations and the African, the African Union: Directorate of Conference Management and Publications (DCMP) Diaspora in making this mammoth goal achievable was not lost either on the leadership of the Union. That done the leadership of AU Commission in tandem with the duly accredited representatives of Member States acting within the framework of the equally nascent policy organs, got down to the business of actual Union building and operationalization as well as institutional transformation viewed as a sine qua non for the visible functionality of this replacement umbrella institution.

This therefore explains why these institutions had to be further buttressed and harmonized for the effective discharge of their exacting mandate predicated on the mission and vision of the Union This way the Union was able to take off swiftly and efficiently, albeit traversing the bumpy road of getting to the stage it is today, where it can conveniently be said to have come of age in terms of defining Africa’s politico-economic integration, cooperation and development agenda at both regional and continental planes. All that now remains to be pursued rigorously is the accelerated and effective implementation of this agenda which is well-articulated in the successive strategic plans of the Union.

Africa Union

The Africa Union in its current structure stands more as a problem than a solution to African problems.

That the challenge ahead is daunting even for a continent so determined is an understatement. Africa must, therefore, mobilize its full potentials and marshal the formidable human and material resources it is endowed with, to rise to that challenge with a view to enabling the Union to forge ahead with the implementation of its huge mandate, particularly in the all-important twin areas of trans- border infrastructural development and Intra-Africa Trade promotion, thereby reducing in an exponential fashion the continent’s excessive reliance on external hand-outs for its own development. Parallel to that, is the need for the continent to make its dependency on external funding of its programmes both at the level of the African Union Commission and individual Member States, as it seems to be the case now a thing of the remote past, if the continent were to make it to the promised land of the much-talked about self-reliance whilst maintaining genuine partnership with the outside world. One surest way of doing so is having a paradigm shift in its existing partnerships with other nations and institutions, whereby there can be a more balanced and mutually beneficial arrangement instead of the continent remaining on the receiving end in these partnerships Africa as we all can bear witness, can, with all the potential and resources it is thankfully blessed with, still offer other regions of the world a lot in this respect. But as the first point of departure the continent must place greater premium on South-South cooperation with particular emphasis on its partnerships with India, China, South Korea, Turkey, the South American States etc. Certainly both Africa and these natural partners stand to gain far greater long-term dividends from such balanced partnerships.

Source: Renegade slave

I reproduced this reflection about pan-Africanism because as an African I favor it against the narrowly focused view of our respective countries as nations on their own.

Furthermore, the views that the author of the article puts forward are correct up to a certain point. And this latter is reached when he sees the African Union as a structure that the unification of the continent could be built on.

In fact, in my understanding, without being categorically opposed to some positive aspects of achievements of the last decade or so, rather than the African Union being a solution or even a pathway to bringing the continent together, it has become the main obstacle to Africans’ unity.

Isn’t that if the African Union was what it should be, meaning a reflection of African interests in its all intentions, we won’t have situations like the Democratic Republic of Congo, or had had others like Libya, Ivory Coast and most recently Mali.

Another pertinent issue for that AU structure is about its current sources of funding. More than 80% of its operations are running thanks to the charity of external donors. The author of the note also stresses that problem. The AU headquarters in Addis Ababa inaugurated in January 2012 are a gift from the Republic of China. All these donors are not providing their money for nothing. They know how to get back their investment. For example, they achieve that by taking away from Africans the power of decision in most of fundamental issues [political, commercial, environment, etc] that could propel the continent’s interests.

One of the major huddle in all this is that leaders on the continent who are the bearers of African interests and responsible of the African Union are not in their majority representatives of their people. The same goes for the personnel in charge of operations at the institution. The staff is there for its only professional interests. Nothing in the fundamental embodiment of the AU structure is truly cared for by leaders and personnel mandated by and devoted to Africans.

The top down development of the AU entity has failed so far. The bottom up approach from such organisations as the Kilombo Centre for Citizens’ Rights and Conflict Resolution in Ghana and many others across the continent, truly representing people and solving their problems, is the best way forward.

The problem of means should not be the issue if Africa was not led by leaders who appear more mercenaries towards their people than would be the foreign ones.


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