Friday, July 13, 2007
By: Swallehe Msuya
The date 09/09/99 is a historic watershed for African politics. It was on this date at the Mediterranean port of Sirte in Libya that the birth of a new baby, the African Union (AU), occurred. Its mission, unlike that of its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), was to advance Africa towards economic integration and political federation.
The OAU had completed its mandate of liberating the continent from colonial domination with the ending of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Now AU has to deliver in its objective goal if Africa is to be a political and an economic factor in a globalised world with the weight of its resources and over 800 million people, a sizeable market that the rest of the world cannot afford to ignore!
The existing boundaries of our 53 nonviable nation states in Africa today are, by and large, a product of the machinations orchestrated in the 1884 Berlin Conference in which European powers decided that Africa was up for grabs. As Africans, to continue to cherish and embrace such boundaries arbitrarily drawn on our continent to serve the interests of the European thieves, is –to say the least – the greatest folly of our times!
Our times are the days of border-less trade, in which our trading partners are the likes of China (20 percent of the human race), the European Union whose Euro currency has overtaken the US dollar, the United States of America, an economic consumerist giant that has dominated world trade before the onslaught of other up-coming economic miracles like EU, Japan, China, India, and to some extent before its demise – the former Soviet Union.
Africa is still a sleeping economic giant! Despite its many years of being exploited by other forces for centuries, Africa is the future because it has its natural resources almost virgin unlike the over-exploited other parts of the world.
The British colonial prefect Lord Lugard, architect of the weapon of “divide-and rule” is again relevant today as our enemies who take our gold and diamonds in exchange for guns are busy dividing us to the extent of foolishly committing massacres, genocide and cross-border military adventures in our own neighborhoods. If we remain divided, they win again!
The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafy’s initiative, this time around, speaks of a United States of Africa, with a strong continental military command of 2 million. You may call it the Rapid Deployment Force of Africa that will be instrumental in settling military disputes within Africa instead of relying on foreign forces to reoccupy Africa, (Iraq style).
The masses can see hope in fighting persistent poverty, corruption and mismanagement by pooling our resources and talents together. The first presidential candidates for the United States of Africa are available in the likes of Koffie Anan and Ambassador Salim Ahmed Salim.
The former was UN’s legendary and instrumental Secretary General, a native of Ghana, and the latter was OAU Secretary General for decades, a native of Tanzania. African leaders who feel that they are too important to relinquish power to give way to unity have outlived their usefulness, the masses must speak up for unity and push aside such decadent leaders.
The share of trade from divided Africa in the global market today is of a negligible amount. You can imagine how hopeless small nation states like Djibouti, Malawi, Togo and Burkina Faso become vulnerable in a world of trading giants. Economic integration and political federation for Africa is the answer to poverty eradication and fighting marginalization from a globalised world.
The late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania – founder members of the OAU, had a positive vision for the United States of Africa. Beyond them, the Mobutus, Sani Abachas, Bokassas, Savimbis, and other such leaders that followed were a disgrace.
Africa today can advance the cause of unity. As we are living in an epoch equipped with the information super-highway, we can start a grass-roots agenda of collecting signatures from across the continent and in the Diaspora to push for the creation of the United States of Africa. It is a unity of the people, not their leaders who may turn the AU into a tea-party organization.
A united Africa where there is free movement of people and goods from Cape Town to Cairo, from Mogadishu to Dakar – a liberated continent in which Africans can move across borders without visa requirements is the future we want to put in place.
Colonel Gaddafi is not well known to some people. Libya, under Muammar Gaddafi, is the land of the Green Book and the Third Universal Theory that challenges Western democracies that have become dysfunctional. Libya is a fountain of ideas and practical solutions to real problems.
Libyans have done it at home, they have the largest man-made river in the world, introduced irrigation farming in desert territory that has enabled them to be self-sufficient in food and are exporting grain to deficit countries – this is the Libya you do not hear about. The Libya of a fountain of ideas and a catalyst for change! Think of the peoples’ assemblies in Libya as a grass-root force in political empowerment, only fools can say that their unique political system does not work!
Picking a leaf from Libya, Africans everywhere must embark on grass-root movements like Libya’s peoples’ assemblies to galvanize support for the realization of a United States of Africa. This ground-up movement will sweep the top leadership from office if they are too selfish to abandon the red carpet and 21 gun-salutes and other executive privileges they enjoy. Those who will not be content to remain “senators” of their states in a federated United States of Africa; we should bid them goodbye!
The super-powers of the world stood by when genocide took place in Rwanda, they are now actively busy lobbying for an international force in Darfur because of the oil wealth of the new region! Come on Africans, wake up, you need an African High Command as proposed by Gaddafy to quell military conflict in Africa. We do not need to import neo-colonial powers to re-establish their might on our continent again!
The role of the African Commission should be re-defined under the auspices of AU to include:
A united Africa has the power to block economic blockades imposed by foreigners on such countries as Zimbabwe, will have a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations and create a larger stronger community of African peoples transcending cultural, ideological, ethnic and national differences.
Our African forefathers laid a strong foundation for large economic and political blocks like the old Empires of Ethiopia, Mali, Ghana, Songhay, Benin, the Congo, Monomopata and Zimbabwe. These flourished in the Middle Ages through internal combustion. We were on the road to unity until the colonial powers interrupted our process. OAU brought down colonialism, why can’t we unite to achieve economic liberation?
The 1999 Sirte meeting of the OAU (4th Extraordinary Summit of the OAU) determined that “Africa would become the world’s largest economic and political bloc, and perhaps leader of the next millennium”. As this vision is shared by most African peoples, no one should stand on our way as we march forward towards the establishment of a United States of Africa.
The continental government as conceived by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana 50 years ago, would have a two-house legislature: an upper house of two members from each state and a lower house based on population of each state.
The lower house would have power to formulate a common foreign policy, a common planning process for economic and industrial development, a common currency and a central bank; and a common defense system with one military high command.
The time is now ripe for Africa to take charge of its destiny. It does not matter if a “Mao Tse Tung” emerges in our midst to take us there. Only by attaining political federation and economic integration can the potential of Africa as an economic giant to empower Africans be realized.
Short of this, the foreign economic sharks will continue to polarize our continent degenerating Africa to the semblance of a burning candle-stick that illuminates the rest of the world while its own fabric is burning away! Africa cannot afford to be reduced to a burning candlestick!
Tanzania’s first President, Mwalimu Nyerere on December 9, 1961 when Tanganyika attained independence from colonial rule, proclaimed “the African dream.”
Julius Nyerere was both a great philosopher and a visionary. He declared and I paraphrase:
“We the people of Tanganyika wish to light the Uhuru (Freedom) Torch and place it on top of Mountain Kilimanjaro, to shine beyond the borders of our country, to bring hope where there is despair, prosperity where there is poverty, and liberty where there is oppression.”
There is no better time than now to translate that African Dream to reality. Even the scriptures will concur that a people without a vision will perish – and to say the least – that is Almighty God talking to us!
We have a Swahili saying that states “Umoja Ni Nguvu” – literally, “Unity Is Strength” Africans must embrace Unity for it is not a borrowed ideology, it is a homegrown philosophy. Balkanization is the foreign ideology of the enemies of Africa! No African should be a cheerleader for that divisive negative foreign ideology.
In the words of the late President of Mozambique, Samora Moses Machel, “Alluta Continua!” Long live the dreams of Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Mwalimu Nyerere.