Monday, May 25, 2009

Africa Facing Major Challenges on 46th OAU/AU Anniversary

Africa Facing Major Challenges on 46th OAU/AU Anniversary

Quest for Unity, Development Still Hampered by Imperialist Intervention

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

May 25, 2009 represented the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over 30 member-states formed the continental body in 1963 amid a groundswell of independence struggles. Every year this date is celebrated on the continent and in the world as "Africa Day" or "Africa Liberation Day."

The creation of the OAU represented a culmination of resistance that extended back to European slavery that began during the 15th century. There are numerous accounts of revolts and other oppositional movements that sought freedom and self-determination for the African people. During the 20th century national liberation movements took on a mass character and in effect accelerated the pace of independence from colonialism.

At the same time in the Caribbean and the United States mass struggles were waged for self-deternination, independence and equality. A mass civil rights movement in the United States won the right of access to public accomodations and universal suffrage. In the Caribbean many countries won independence from the former colonial powers of Europe and the U.S.

According to Kwame Nkrumah, the founding prime minister and president of the west African nation of Ghana, which was the first state to win national independence south of the sahara, the origins of the concept of the commonality of conditions among black peoples took place in the western hemisphere. These origins grew directly out of the revolts against slavery and other acts of self-determination on the part of the African people in the colonies throughout the Americas.

Nkrumah wrote in a pamphlet issued in 1968 entitled "The Spectre of Black Power" that: "Pan-Africanism has its beginnings in the liberation struggle of African-Americans, expressing the aspirations of Africans and people of African descent. From the first Pan-African Conference, held in London in 1900, until the fifth and last Pan-African Conference held in Manchester (UK) in 1945, African-Americans provided the main driving power of the movement. Pan-Africanism then moved to Africa, its true home, with the holding of the First Conference of Independent African States in Accra (Ghana) in April 1958, and the All-African People's Conference in December of the same year." (Reprinted in Revolutionary Path, 1973)

In the same pamphlet Nkrumah continues by drawing attention to some of the leading figures in the struggle who played a significant role in building the world-wide movement for liberation and unity. He notes that: "The work of the early pioneers of Pan-Africanism such as Sylvester Williams, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, and George Padmore, none of whom were born in Africa, has become a treasured part of Africa's history. It is significant that two of them, Dr. DuBois and George Padmore, came to live in Ghana at my invitation. Dr. DuBois died, as he wished, on African soil, while working in Accra on the Encyclopedia Africana. George Padmore became my Adviser on African Affairs, and spent the last years of his life in Ghana, helping in the revolutionary struggle for African unity and socialism."

In February 1966, the socialist-oriented government of Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in Ghana with the backing of the United States imperialists. After re-locating in Guinea and being appointed as co-president by Ahmed Sekou Toure, Nkrumah concluded that the OAU could not fulfill its mission as long as U.S. imperialism maintained its influence on the continent.

Nkrumah wrote in 1968 that "The Organization of African Unity has been rendered virtually useless as a result of the machinations of neo-colonialists and their puppets. Yet it is being preserved as an innocuous organization in the hope that it may delay the formation of a really effective Pan-African organization which will lead to genuine political unification. Encouragement is being given to the formation of African regional economic organizations in the knowledge that without political cohesion they will be ineffective and serve to strengthen, not weaken, neo-colonialist exploitation and domination." (Introduction to the Spectre of Black Power)

Challenges of the African Union Today

In 2002 the member states of the Organization of African Unity decided to rename the continental body and include many of the objectives that Nkrumah had advanced during the 1950s and 1960s. The OAU was then recast as the African Union (AU) with the stated aimed of forming a monetary system, parliament, peacekeeping force, greater inter-continental trade and economic integration, etc. A Pan-African Parliament has been established and is based in the Republic of South Africa.

The AU has also appointed a permanent representative to the United States, Mrs. Amina Salum Ali, who works out of Washington, D.C. Ali, a Tanzanian national, recently visited the city of Detroit where she spoke at Wayne State University. During Ali's lecture and in a later interview with the Pan-African News Wire, the AU Ambassador emphasized the necessity of the continent to overcome the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Ali stated that the AU "is implementing a three-year strategic plan (2009-2012) dealing with peace and security due to a number of conflicts on the continent. The AU is developing protocols that guide peace and security as well as an African Stand-by Force and a Rapid Deployment Force. In addition, the AU has established a 'panel of the wise' consisting of former heads-of-state who will intervene to resolve conflicts."

With specific reference to women's status in Africa, Ali stated that "women need to be empowered and this is very key to the AU's objectives. The AU has adopted a declaration on women's rights that has as a goal the realization of 50% women's representation in government in both the legislative and executive branches. The declaration on women's rights also applies to educational access, health care as well as opposition to gender-based violence."

In regard to economic development, the AU Ambassador said that "continental integration must create a common market. We need to have access and movement of goods, services and information."

"The legacy of colonialism left Africa as a raw materials supplier. We need to develop an internal infrastructure. Transportation, telecommunications and highways are needed. In Africa we have potential because of the production of oil, natural gas and geo-thermal energy. Yet we are importing $28 billion in agricultural products every year," Ali said.

Ali continued by pointing out that "some African countries have done quite well over the last three years, however, the global economic crisis has had rippling effects on Africa with the decline in commodity prices and tourism. This is the time to seek greater involvement in global affairs."

As it relates to the post-colonial history of Africa, Ali said that "the Cold War had an impact on the continent and in subsequent years the policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were not helpful. The reform of the United Nations Security Council is necessary since Africa has no permanent representative. The G20 only has one African member, South Africa."

When asked about U.S. military involvement on the African continent, Ali said that "the Africa Command (AFRICOM) was enacted without consultation with the various states. The AU position is that the U.S. can support African stand-by forces, but not station their troops on the continent."

The AU Ambassador also noted that the U.S. already has relationships with various African states. Naming the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti as one such country where the U.S. has troops stationed.

In response to a question on Zimbabwe-U.S. relations, Ali said that the AU supported the new inclusive government in Zimbabwe and felt that sanctions should be lifted. The AU is pressing for more dialogue between Zimbabwe and the Obama administration in Washington.

The Continuing Problem of U.S. Interference

Perhaps the most difficult situation that the AU finds itself in today is centered around the Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). At present the U.S. government has backed 4,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi to serve as military peacekeepers in Somalia. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia has been under attack by the Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam resistance movements who have refused to recognize the U.S.-backed regime because of the continued presence of the AMISOM forces.

The U.S. is reported to have supplied over $160 million to fund AMISOM and to train a new Somalia national army and coast guard. Yet the fighting between Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam against the AMISOM and TFG forces have intensified. During early May the resistance forces took over several key areas north of the capital of Mogadishu. On May 22 the AMISOM forces launched what was described as a counter-attack to reclaim areas taken over by the resistance forces in the capital.

Prior to the formation of the new TFG government in January, the Somali people had waged a two year struggle against an invasion and occupation by U.S.-backed troops from Ethiopia. The U.S. had opposed the increasing influence of the Islamic Court Union(ICU) during 2006 and consequently encouraged Ethiopia to occupy the country. In an effort to counter the failed mission by Ethiopia, the U.S. sought to cultivate support within the ICU causing a split between moderate and radical forces.

Although the official position of the AU is that the TFG should be supported, most African states have not committed any troops to intervene through AMISOM. Consequently, the U.S.-backed east African governments of Uganda and Burundi have constituted the so-called peacekeeping force which has increasingly taken aggressive actions against the people of Somalia.

This political dilemma for the AU can only be resolved through consultation with the various forces operating now in Somalia. As long as the U.S. is supporting and financing a military solution that seeks to exclude the resistance movements inside the country, there will be no lasting peace aggreements. Historically the intervention of the United States in Somalia and the Horn of Africa has created more instability for the people of the region.

Today the U.S. and the European Union have sent flotillas of warships to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Somalia and other states in the region. This build-up in the naval presence of a host of imperialist countries represents a clear threat to the sovereignty and development efforts on the African continent.

As Kwame Nkrumah stated in his address to the founding meeting of the OAU in 1963, "many independent African states are involved by military pacts with the former colonial powers. The stability and security which such devices seek to establish are illusory, for the metropolitan powers seize the opportunity to support their neo-colonialist controls by direct military involvement. We have seen how the neo-colonialists use their bases to entrench themselves and even to attack neigboring independent states. Such bases are centers of tension and potential danger spots of military conflict."

Nkrumah, in this same address went on to point out that the presence of imperialist military bases in Africa "threaten the security not only of the country in which they are situated but of neighboring countries as well. How can we hope to make Africa a nuclear-free zone and independent of cold war pressure with such military invovlement on our continent? Only by counter-balancing a common defense force with a common desire for an Africa untrammelled by foreign dictation or military and nuclear presence. This will require an all-embracing African High Command, especially if the military pacts with the imperialists are to be renounced. It is the only way we can break these direct links between the colonialism of the past and the neo-colonialism which disrupts us today."

Therefore, it is necessary for Africa to break with the continuing colonial and imperialist influence and domination in an effort to realize genuine independence. Such independence can only be achieved under a socialist system where the wealth of the continent and its tremendous labor power can be harnessed for the benefit of the workers and farmers of the continent.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. The writer covered the Detroit visit of the African Union Ambassador to the U.S. when she spoke at WSU and the Africa Day commemoration held at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

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