Kwame Nkrumah speaking at the Organization of African Unity Summit in 1964 in Egypt calling for a continental unity government for Africa. 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Editorial Comment: It’s time Africa reverts to its founding principles
Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00
Marcus Garvey, one of the leaders of black nationalism and pan-Africanism said, “History is the landmark by which we are directed into the true course of life”, and that “The history of a movement, the history of a nation, the history of a race is the guidepost of that movement’s destiny, that nation’s destiny, that race’s destiny”.
We reflect on these words of wisdom as we commemorate 49 years of the founding of the continental bloc, the Organisation of African Union, now the African Union.
Founded on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, by 37 independent African states, the African Union’s founding fathers who included Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Ben Bella of Algeria, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and others, the OAU was formed on a clear vision and firm principles.
These included the promotion of unity and cohesion among the newly independent states, advancement of Africa’s economic development, eradication of all forms of colonialism; recognition of the sovereign status of member states, among others.
Recalling that historic moment after the death of Ben Bella, President Mugabe saluted the OAU’s commitment to a sovereign Africa saying that the Algerian founding father said in 1963, that they should be prepared to die for Africa’s liberation.
Five decades on, we commemorate this great day, but we do so not only with pride, but with a number of unanswered questions. Have we lived up to the founding fathers’ long-term vision and principles?
If their objective of eradicating colonialism and ensuring independence succeeded, why are neo-colonial and imperialist tendencies rearing their ugly heads on the continent?
Why do alien value systems continue to be imposed on the continent?
Why are imperialist forces finding it easier to manipulate the continent’s leadership, giving them greater leverage?
This has not only made Africa’s recolonisation a likely possibility, but a reality, if the leadership does not commit itself to principles that founded Africa as a democratic continent.
President Mugabe has on a number of occasions decried that some of Africa’s leaders are far removed from the founding fathers’ ideals and aspirations, and are instead only too happy to accommodate former colonial masters’ wishes.
We question these leaders’ motives. Is it because they do not understand and/or believe in the vision set out by the founding fathers despite having profited from those ideals? Half of the continent’s leadership would not be where it is, if that desire to free Africa had not been pursued with vigour.
But today, Africa Day is just a public holiday, meaningless to many of the continent’s citizens and in some instances, just a talkshop, using donor funds. We believe that one of the major sources of the problem lies in the AU’s funding mechanism, which also affects regional blocs like Sadc, Ecowas and the East African Community.
We have noted the disinterest by member states in funding the AU’s budgetary requirements, with the exception of the late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Imperialists have exploited this void, and today, one of the major funders of the AU is the European Union.
This has not only compromised the AU’s position in the geo-political sphere, but it has also resulted in what we could best describe as lack of direction. The past year alone has proved that there is no unity of purpose on fundamental issues.
Voting for the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1973 on Libya was not only a departure on nation states’ sovereignty, but it also gave a blank cheque to powerful nations to do as they wish on the continent — pillaging and plundering natural resources — imposing illegal sanctions on leaders that do not do their bidding, illegal regime change, and more.
We have also noted with dismay the discordance in dealing with continental issues that threaten peace and security and, socio-economic stability.
The occupation of Libya by NATO forces and the subsequent killing of Col Gaddafi is a good example. Leaders like Laurent Gbagbo and some Kenyan nationals are at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Meanwhile, Africa’s leadership has yet to come up with a united position on the prosecution of Gaddafi’s murderers; on illegal sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe; on the ICC targeting African nationals.
We know that powerful nations are in Africa not because they want to work with us on an equal partnership basis, but because they want our resources.
Five decades after the formation of a continental body, we also question why a rich continent continues to be poorer, and be at the mercy of powerful nations.
The continent’s population now stands at one billion, and most of them are young people who require jobs and a stable future like their counterparts elsewhere.
The continent’s peace and security situation is also precarious. West Africa is in danger of reverting to military dictatorships. Food security, technological advancements, health, water and sanitation are issues that face the AU leadership as a collective group. The founding fathers left behind a good template of the African “image”. Working on this template will see Africa dealing with issues outside the colonial mould.
The AU has seen that the European Union in tackling the eurozone crisis is not seeking solutions from outside of its own framework.
In a globalised world, suggestions can be proffered, but if they are a threat to your value systems, you don’t necessarily have to accept them, as some in Africa seem to be doing.
It is time that Africa looked at itself from within; know its identity, instead of living on borrowed identities, for there are no free lunches.
He who pays the piper calls the tune. Africa has enough potential to not only pay the piper, but to also call its own tune, and compete effectively on the global arena.
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