The dream of Africa’s 53 sovereign states to form a United States of Africa as conceived by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana more than fifty years ago has received less than enthusiastic support at a recent African Union summit held in Addis Ababa.
The Nkrumah dream has lately been rekindled by none other that Libya’s strongman, Colonel Muamar Gaddafi. He spearheaded the 1999 Sirte Accord that paved the way for the transformation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into a more union-friendly African Union (AU).
Colonel Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for four decades, has clearly sought to be the new voice of Africa, to fill up a vacuum that has remained void since the death of Nkrumah of Ghana, Nyerere of Tanzania and Abdel Nasser of Egypt.
Following the just-ended summit, Gaddafi became the new African Union chairman, a position he will occupy for one year, during which he may choose to promote his agenda of creating a United States of Africa.
Even as he led discussions in Addis Ababa as AU chairman, dissenting voices from African leaders suggested that Africa was not ready for unity, no – not at this point in time. The meeting ended somewhat in disarray, according to inside sources, with Gaddafi walking out at the end of the meeting without “a word of hope”, while other African leaders also left the summit bringing the much-respected Assembly to a rough landing.
Many of our current African leaders clearly do not want to do away with executive privileges of flying in Presidential jets, receiving a 21-gun salute and receiving a red carpet treatment each time they visit another country. What if this matter was taken to the nearly one billion people of Africa for a referendum? I am sure our leaders would appear to be out of tune with the reality on the ground.
The on-going selfish interests of many of our leaders to remain “kings, sultans and monarchs” in their respective territories has greatly undermined efforts to forge a realistic political union of African states and trifled efforts of integrating our economies for the common good.
It is time that African youth woke up from their slumber and start a strong grass-root movement empowered by internet technology to remove current dinosaurs from power and shake up the status quo in favor of progress towards the establishment of a United States of Africa!
Already the African Union has a Pan-African Parliament composed of 265 elected representatives from all 53 member states intended to provide popular and civil-society participation in the process of democratic governance.
AU has the Assembly of heads of state, the supreme governing body that meets once a year and take decisions by consensus or by two-thirds majority.
The AU has the Union Commission consisting of ten commissioners and supporting staff in the fashion of the European Commission. Its headquarters are in Addis Ababa.
The AU has the African Court of Justice that provides for a Court of Justice to rule on disputes over interpretation of AU treaties. It is now being expanded to include a Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights.
There is the Executive Council comprising of ministers from designated states that take decisions on matters of foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and communications. There are Permanent Representatives’ Committee, Peace and Security Council, Economic, Social and Cultural Council and Specialized Technical Committees.
To date, Africa has eight Regional Economic Communities spread all over the continent that may be considered the building blocs of the envisaged United States of Africa. These communities that serve as common markets for their respective regions are recognized by the AU and are established under separate regional treaties. They include: the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), East African Community (EAC), Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).
To create greater momentum on the way forward, the AU has been working on modalities to rationalize the regional communities to avoid overlaps and harmonize policies that are in tune with the Abuja Treaty and Lagos Plan of Action.
The most crucial debate on the formation of the United States of Africa took place in Accra, Ghana in July 2007, marking 50 years of Ghana’s independence. At the end of a conversation that led to a heated debate, the Assembly (summit) agreed to accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent and to audit AU institutions, review Regional Economic Communities and work for a timetable to establish a Union Government.
What emerged from the Ghana summit was the realization of the need to involve the peoples of Africa, including Africans in the Diaspora in the process leading to the formation of the United States of Africa government.
There is power in numbers. The combined AU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is in the tune of $500 billion. The ultimate goal is to create a free trade area, a customs union, a single market, a central bank and a common currency (the Afro?)
The projected target is to have an African Economic Community with a single currency by 2023. The project aims that Africa will have one army, a common foreign and trade policy, and will work towards a concerted effort to bring its people together to fight poverty, end internal wars, establish the rule of law and good governance, democracy and uphold the dignity of the people by observing universally accepted standards of human rights.
Africa, through unity will reap the benefits of its vast resources for the well-being of its people, fight for a level-playing field in international trade and avoid marginalization and exploitation by others nations.
With political unity and economic integration, Africa will qualify to have a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council with a veto power that will end her curse of centuries of being the underdog in global relations.
Current African leaders have nothing to fear if we decide to embark on continental unity now. By borrowing from the United States of America federal system, our present heads of state and government will be retained as governors of their current states, and a federal structure with two chambers – a Congress and Senate – are put in place to guarantee fair play and equitable representation for all states.
This is surely a win-win situation for all. As and when Africa decides to speak with one voice, we shall be able to set the agenda of the global economy and set straight the politics of a world now in disarray given the current economic meltdown and political chaos. For, let it be said, without Africa, the world has no future! Let us not squander this opportunity that will transform our circumstances for the better.
The fear among some of our myopic leaders that if we move on with the speed of creating unity in the continent as articulated by Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is tantamount to giving the “unpredictable” Bedouin leader more than his share of a lasting legacy in African history is simply outlandish!
While Gaddafi may not meet the criteria of what others consider to be the splendid face of Africa, what if his ideas are workable and his positioning and timing is on the right side of history? Whether we like it or not, African unity will come through our grass-roots organizing and by the efforts of intellectual vanguards like the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his dream; and revolutionaries of our time (however you view him) like Colonel Gaddafi!
Opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not represent those of Mshale.