South African President Nelson Mandela with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The two leaders are recognized as pioneers in the struggle for national liberation and Pan-Africanism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The historical roots and evolution of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance
Unity has evaded Africa for half a century because the continent's organs have never managed to effectively integrate the Africa's regional economic communities into their programmes, writes Kassim M Khamis.
The African unity agenda has gone through three main stages since 1963. These are the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the African Economic Community (AEC) and now the African Union (AU).
Due to the difficult circumstances in which it was established, the OAU had weak Charter and ended up concentrating mainly on political issues - particularly fighting colonialism and consolidating member states' independence. There was no consensus among the member states on how to pursue the African unity agenda, whether by a unitary system or through regional groupings.
The groupings were kept away, and even instructed not to pursue any political agenda by the first meeting of the Council of Ministers held in Dakar, Senegal in August 1963.
By the mid-1970s, economic issues were pressing and member states agreed to establish the AEC between 1976 and 2000.
By then, they had settled on working to attain continental unity through regional groupings and subsequently decided on the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the pillars of the AEC. The community was to have stronger legal instrument, treaty with some supranational powers; stronger organs with peoples' representation, such as the Pan African Parliament; a sound financial backing by an African Payments Union; a clear programme of work, comprising six stages, developed from the Lagos Plan of Action and its Final Act; and a robust continental institutional framework. In the process, a number of activities were to be carried out to facilitate the AEC's institutionalisation. They included preparation of protocols to complement the AEC Treaty (the Abuja Treaty), reviewing the OAU Charter to harmonise legal instruments, restructuring the OAU General Secretariat, inauguration of the Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC), devising budget and resource mobilisation plans, and identification and strengthening of the RECs both financially and administratively.
Unfortunately, the community faced many challenges and could not be realised as planned. On one hand, it took about 15 years just to get the treaty drafted. It was finally signed in June 1991, in Abuja, Nigeria. From 1976 the OAU was just formulating new blueprints that included the Monrovia Strategy of 1979, the Lagos Plan of Action and its Final Act of 1980 that formed the basis on which the treaty was drafted.
On the other hand, the community process also faced many other challenges that prevented its realisation. The main reason for the failure was simply the inappropriate execution of the community's implementation strategy.
Firstly, RECs were not adequately involved in the whole process - from the drafting of the Abuja Treaty to its implementation. They had, ultimately, to be attached to the community by a specific protocol that had its own defects, such as the lack of linking policy organs of the OAU/AEC to those of RECs. As a consequence, the protocol emerged as a mere cooperation agreement at the secretariat level of the OAU/AEC, African Development Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Regional Economic Communities. Therefore, RECs remained loosely connected to the OAU/AEC.
Secondly, there was misunderstanding on the relationship between the OAU and the community, the result of which the two institutions existed concurrently in a confusing way, as the AEC, with a superior treaty, was attached in a subordinate manner to the weak OAU and its Charter, sharing the same organs, budget, etc., but tending to operate differently.
Thirdly, and in view of the above, many programmes could not be accordingly executed. For example, the OAU Charter could not be reviewed, and organs like the Pan African Parliament and the Court of Justice could not be created, denying the African people representation in the continental affairs. Moreover, the drafting of the related protocols and the six stages laid down in the Abuja Treaty were unsuccessful.
Thus, by September 1999, just a year before the targeted time for the AEC to have been in place, there were difficulties in the creation of the community; while the OAU had become outdated and too weak to take Africa into the 21st Century. In the circumstances and in an effort to get out of the confusion, the African Union was created.
The idea to transform the OAU into the AU was spearheaded by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He had already led the creation of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in February 1998, but later became impressed by the position taken by the African leaders, meeting in their 34th session in June 1998 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the sanctions imposed on his country. During that summit African leaders called on the UN Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed on Libya, indicating that they would no longer comply with Security Council resolutions 748 (1992) and 883 (1993) on the issue. The sanctions had been imposed following Libya's reluctance to hand over for trial in the United States of America or United Kingdom two citizens who had implicated in the Pan Am bombing incident over Lockerbie, Scotland, preferring a neutral ground.
Consequently, when the Libyan leader proposed the transformation of the OAU, the situation was already ripe for change; and after some consultations, African leaders reached an agreement to transform the OAU into the AU.
Now, following the confusion that had emanated from the concurrent existence of the OAU and the AEC and the agreement reached in Sirte, Libya in September 1999, the AU was to be a merger of the OAU and the AEC into a single institution, the AU, under a single legal document, the Constitutive Act, into which RECs would be consolidated under one hierarchy and a single overall continental framework.
This is in accordance with the three main instruments that established the AU, namely, the Sirte Declaration, the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Decision on the African Union [EAHG/DECL.1 (V)] that formally put in place the AU.
Consequently, the final objective and plan was to establish the AU as a new institution integrating both the OAU and the AEC, leading ultimately to the United States of Africa, as clarified by the fifth ordinary session of the Executive Council and confirmed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2005.
The AU was to ensure the realisation of the free trade area, the customs union, and the common market - objectives of the OAU and AEC - at both regional and continental levels under its auspices and in an accelerated way.
Unfortunately, the establishment of the AU did not proceed according to the strategy agreed by the African leaders in those three fundamental legal documents. Once again, RECs were not adequately involved despite the fact that the Sirte Declaration called for the consolidation of RECs within the AU; Article 33 of the Constitutive Act ordered the same by the devolution of all OAU/AEC's assets to the AU; and the Decision on the African Union stressed the execution of the process in conformity with Article 33 of the Act.
This was in addition to the fact that the Protocol on relations between the AEC and RECs, however imperfect, had called under its Article 7(2e) for the Committee on Coordination to determine the implementation of the OAU's decisions on the Abuja Treaty, which were equally binding on RECs according to Article 10(2) of the Treaty.
However, the Committee on Coordination was not convened, leaving the RECs sidelined in the process.
Yet, it is now encouraging to note that efforts are being made to put the African Union strategy on its proper course.
The AU policy organs have already decided on the preparation of an African Union Strategic Plan to be jointly drafted by all AU organs, including RECs. Equally important, the current AU Commission's leadership has shown its determination to bring RECs and the people onboard; and that process has already started by consultations with RECs to chart the way forward.
On the 50th anniversary of the OAU, the following recommendations are advanced for consideration:
So far, the celebrations seem to focus more on the founding and founders of the OAU. It is important to recall that OAU was part of the implementation of the Pan Africanism that had its own founders as well. Names of Henry Sylvester William, EW Burghardt Du Bois, William Marcus Garvey and others need also to be given the recognition they deserve. We have seen already photographs of the founders of the OAU hanging out there in the AU Conference Centre but there is nothing in commemoration of those founders of the Pan African Movement. Why then not revive the Pan African Congresses, which those people founded in place of such new terms as Diaspora summits etc. This gesture should be to appreciate the contribution of the African Diaspora to the African unity agenda.
The revival of the Pan African Congresses and their institutionalisation within the AU system should facilitate many things. For example, currently, the decision has been to categorise the African Diaspora as the sixth region of the AU. This is not practical because the five geographical regions under which the AU is operating are only practical during the AU organs' sessions, in which the African Diaspora is not represented.
Physically, there is no geographical region on the ground with which the AU is working; but there are RECs, in which category the African Diaspora does not fit either. The Diaspora meeting in May could be a time for such a transformation into a Pan African Congress.
In the same connection, the Pan African Congresses should be a free forum for not only the African Diaspora but also for the civil society organisations, private sector in Africa, etc. They can organise themselves into committees dealing with various issues to support the AU. As examples have already been given, they can run themselves and be of no, or at least little, financial burden to the AU. They can be an important driving force of the African Union, just as they initiated the original Pan African Movement that led us to where we are now.
The African Union has officially identified its pillars, which are the eight RECs. These are the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Union of Maghreb States (UMA).
As we are looking forward to their consolidation within the AU to realise the Union's vision by 2063, we can also start having their presence recognised and felt in the AU Commission's compound.
We have buildings, conference halls and rooms. Why call them Buildings A, B, C or Conference Rooms 1, 2, 3 etc.? We can have COMESA Hall, ECOWAS Hall etc., instead; and even the names of some of the Pan Africanists who had played a greater role in this Pan Africanism process as a way of appreciating their role. Why should we appear as if we don't have history?
Again, as we look forward to 2063, the general perception is to have a more united Africa according to the AU's vision. However, it should be recalled that the way the AU came into existence, it was accelerated by efforts of one person, the Libyan leader.
Now, how long will it take us to get another leader to push for the realisation of our vision in 2063? Among the deficiencies of the 1963 summit was that a mechanism was not put in place to foster the African unity dream.
This now should change. If in 1963, the OAU founders focused on the liberation of Africa and supported it by creating a Liberation Committee, it is time that in May 2013, the AU summit inaugurates a Unity Committee that will campaign and spearhead the realisation of the AU's vision by 2063.
Having said that, and from the way the Constitutive Act has been drafted and executed, this Act cannot take us to 2063. There will be a need for its review in line with its own articles, particularly the execution of its Article 33, which calls for the total incorporation of the Abuja Treaty and RECs into the Constitutive Act and the African Union.
** Kassim M. Khamis is a political analyst with the AU Panel of the Wise and author of the book ‘Promoting the African Union'.