Thursday, May 25, 2017

African Union Must Steer Continent Into One State
May 24, 2017 Opinion & Analysis
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Zimbabwe Chronicle

Tomorrow, May 25, is the 54th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now called the African Union (AU), headquartered in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where it was founded.

When that organisation was launched in 1963, large regions of the African continent were ruled by some European colonial powers on the basis of the 1884- 85 Berlin Conference, which partitioned what they derisively referred to as “the dark continent” among themselves.

Still under colonial domination at the time of the OAU launch were Angola, Mozambique, Guinea (Bissau), Sao Tome and Principle which were under Portugal; Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Nyasaland (Malawi) which were ruled by Britain, one or two Indian Ocean islands occupied by France, and two Spanish-ruled West African territories.

In addition to those formal colonies, there was South Africa which was administered by a racist white minority, descendants of various European ethnic communities, the most dominant being the Dutch.

South West Africa, now Namibia, was under the South African regime, having been earlier a German colony (German West Africa) but placed under South Africa by a League of Nations mandate in 1920 after the defeat of Germany in the 1914-18 World War.

Today, Africa talks about colonialism only in historical terms except for the Saharoui, (Spanish Sahara) over which Morocco is adamantly claiming sovereignty.

The OAU’s main objective was to organise financial and military resources for the liberation of the continent. It was also its duty to initiate and co-ordinate African diplomatic strategies at such international fora as the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the International Labour Organisation, the Tripartite Movement, the World Peace Council and the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), and even at international religious bodies.

Complaints against colonialism ranged from political oppression to economic exploitation, denial of economic opportunities, dispossession particularly of indigenous peoples’ livestock, and their displacement from rural land and urban centres. African people justifiably demanded the right to rule themselves in their own respective countries, the right to select and elect their own representatives to various national institutions, cultural organisations and social movements.

They demanded one person, one vote, and where the colonialists refused to grant that inalienable right, the black people took up arms to wage liberation wars. The OAU whole-heartedly supported all those wars through its arm, appropriately called the “Liberation Committee” which was based in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Now that the continent is ruled by the indigenous majority, it is necessary to look at the post-colonial situation to see what political, economic, cultural and social improvements have been made.

Unfortunately, not all that can be done in an article of this scope and magnitude. However, a cursory glance at the continent over the past 54 years shows a high occurrence of military coups.

Military coups result, by their very nature, in dictatorships. That was the case in Zaire (now DRC) during the Mobutu regime and in the Central African Republic during the Colonel Jean Bedel Bokassa era, and in the very tragic Idi Amin period in Uganda.

Many other African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Malagasy (Madagascar) have had their share of such coups, an unfortunate development in a continent that founded an organisation one of whose aims was to bring freedom to the oppressed.

Some of the coups were staged to replace corrupt regimes; others were meant to give opportunities to corrupt military officers and their henchmen to seize and loot state resources.

In virtually every case in Africa, military coups have been caused by corruption, either as a reason to remove corrupt national leaders, or as an objective to install corrupt military dictatorships.

There have been, of course, instances where military coups were staged by truly patriotic, anti-corruption officers as was the case in Ethiopia in 1974-75 when the outdated quasi-feudal Emperor Haile Selassie regime was topped by a Marxist movement one of whose senior leaders was Major Mengistu Haile Mariam.

It was ironic that Emperor Haile Selassie was instrumental in the founding of the OAU but headed a semi-feudal regime that cared very little, if anything at all, about the social and economic welfare of the majority of the people of that country.

Political instability has been experienced in a few African states in the past 50-plus years. The longest and most difficult to resolve are the DRC civil wars, currently being waged in that vast country’s three or four regions.

Somalia has had politico-religious turmoil since 1991. That retrogressive development has resulted in the deaths of thousands, displacement of millions, injuries to well-nigh innumerable people, and in unquantifiable economic stagnation, if not retardation, in that most pitiable state.

Meanwhile, a major political development that has occurred in the AU’s 54 years has been the “birth” of the world’s newest nation, the South Sudan whose capital is Juba located in what used to be called Jubaland during the time of the Anglo-Egyptian administration of the Sudan.

That nation, which came into existence four years ago, is currently facing internal as well as external problems. Internally, it is facing a civil war, and externally, an understandable military threat by the Arab-dominated Sudan from which it seceded.

All these, plus a few more, are the current security problems the AU is facing and tackling. The continent’s Arabic northern states, Libya and Egypt to be precise, are dealing with their internal politico-military insecurity without the AU’s active involvement.

In Southern Africa, the situation has been relatively quiet and peaceful except in Mozambique for the past two years where pockets of disgruntled Renamo bandits have been trying to revive a formerly Rhodesian and South African Boer-sponsored uprising against the popularly elected Frelimo Government.

That situation has caused the displacement of a number of people who have sought refuge in neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe where they are being taken care of by, among other organisations, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

There have been internal political squabbles in Lesotho, a minor problem that was successfully handled by Sadc. The AU did not play a prominent role in that issue.

A most recent more or less serious matter was the refusal by the Gambian military leader, Yahya Jammeh, to step down three months ago and let the electorally chosen Adama Barrow to take over.

However, the issue was resolved by the regional body, the Economic Organisation of West African States, without the AU taking a conspicuously prominent lead.

The AU’s outstanding objective now is to steer the continent to the achievement of the dream of the pioneering Africanists, that is bringing together all the 55 African countries into one state called the United States of Africa.

Among those who initially tirelessly called for the creation of such a state were Ghana’s Kwameh Nkhrumah, Guinea’s Sekou Toure, Mali’s Modibo Keita, and much later Libya’s Muammar Gaddaffi.

It is significant that the OAU changed its name to AU an indication of African leaders’ wish to turn the continent into a meaningful global economic factor.

Since Africa has the largest number of mineral resources and, arguably, the largest and potentially most productive land in the world, it can easily become a world power if it had the right type of political leadership and governance.

It cannot rid itself of poverty, disease and ignorance if it continues its present micro state statuses based on the colonialists’ 1884-85 Berlin Conference.

The colonies created by that Berlin gathering were useful to the metropolitan powers as suppliers of raw material for their industries, and also as markets for their goods and services, as well as living space (lebens raum in German) for some of their burgeoning populations.

Talking about burgeoning population brings us to Africa in general and to Sadc in particular where population growth is uncontrolled. In 1993, the Sadc region had just about 120 million people; in 2025 that figure will have increased to 273 million according to scientific projections.

Most of the Sadc countries have an annual population growth rate of more than three percent. Such a growth rate would result in the doubling of their current population in 23 years. It should be a matter of great concern that Sadc governments have not up to now designed and introduced population growth control policies.

Without considering the Aids impact, it is reasonably estimated that at the present growth rate, the region’s total population will most probably stabilise at about 560 million in 2093.

As of now, Zimbabwe’s, South Africa’s and Mozambique’s population density is between 22 and 50 per square kilometre. That of Botswana, Angola and Namibia is about 20 to 22 per square kilometre.

In most of those countries, food procurement and processing are the daily occupations of the majority of the people. Most of that food is for internal sale or consumption and not for export. There is thus very little national wealth creation by the people of those countries who live literally from hand to mouth.

Those poverty-ridden people can be pulled out of their miserable situation by the creation of a macro-state in which communication, investment, trade and employment could be facilitated and increased, the very same way it is being done in China, India, Germany, America and Australia.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo – based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email.

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