“A RESPONSE TO THE CRITICS OF AFRICAN UNITY” Our late President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who was voted Africa’s Man of the Century by the B.B.C in the year 2000 visualized this subject matter. This award is a clear manifestation of the goodwill our late president enjoys worldwide. Indeed he did not just come by this goodwill, but by the benefit, we as Africans stand to enjoy from the concept he postulated and worked tirelessly towards during his days. This article is a reaction to the critics of African Unity the world over and also to encourage our African Leaders to speed up the process for we cannot wait any longer. What I dare say is that almost, if not all Africans, know and agree to the fact that Africa must be united. Now the question to be asked is, why do we need an African Unity? The purpose of an Africa Unity is to ensure the speedy and accelerated development of the African Continent through the process of having a stronger African government that can withstand the powers that be, politically and economically in this world. Indeed an Africa Unity will go a long way in reducing the adverse poverty that exists on the continent. It will also reduce illiteracy, ignorance and the numerous diseases that have plagued the continent. I think those who are cautious of an African Unity are missing the fundamental purpose of an African Unity. We do not just need unity for unity sake. We are all aware of the fact that the individual countries on the African continent cannot withstand the political and economic pressure that comes from the advanced countries. The international economic and political order is such that it favors and continues to favor the advanced world. If it stays the way it is, African countries shall and forever remain subservient and dependent on the advanced world. But that cannot be good for Africa. The rate at which the advanced countries are developing, no African country can match them. The fact that Americans are exploiting the moon and the whole planet whilst African countries still use machetes, hoes and cutlasses as farming tools is a clear manifestation of the very wide gab that exist between the African and the advanced world. Some critics believe that Africa’s unity should be based on a movement from a regional integration such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to an African Unity. But I beg to differ on that point. The Regional integration concept, though similar to the African Unity concept, is fundamentally different unless they are changed. For now, their focus are on economic integration rather than a political integration. All that it envisages is a free movement of people and goods among the respective countries. Even with this, its implementation has been a problem. I want to submit that the regional integration concept cannot stand the test or standard that is required for the radical and rapid development that is needed and demanded on the African Continent. What can be predicted is that if we allow individual countries to develop on their own, those individual countries that are able to develop may try to dictate the pace. This aside, when one regional bloc e.g. ECOWAS is able to develop at a faster rate than their counterparts e.g. South African Development Cooperation (SADC), the ECOWAS bloc may dictate the pace in determining when and how we unite. What is likely to happen is that that regional bloc will not be willing to share the gains it has made over the years with the other regional blocs. They may request the other blocs to learn from their experience and to develop up to a certain point before talking about a political unity. Their target will now be to chase the advanced countries but that will also be a wild goose chase. What is going to happen thereafter, is a thwarted and uneven development on the African Continent. Unity will be very difficult to achieve at that stage. The arguments that are being used to object to an African Unity today will be the same arguments that will be used to object to the unity when we get to there. There is this view, which is being held by a section of the African public that there should first be an economic integration before political integration. A view, which is similar to the regional integration concept. I want to humbly submit that such a view misses the boat completely. It is like putting the cart before the horse. What we must realize is that it is the political aspects of a nation that move the economy forward. Political decisions affect and shape the economy in all its ways. It is after the economy has gotten stronger that it comes back to strengthen the political power of a nation. An e.g. is in the USA where the Unity of the American States gave the government the power to legislate allowing for grants to universities that were purposely set up as agricultural institutions and among other legislations the economy of America moved at a faster rate and today the heavy development of the American economy has given it the kind of political power that it is enjoying. It is through political power that decisions are taken to direct where the economy is supposed to move. Indeed it is the political will that allow for economic integration and until we achieve a political unity on the continent, there cannot be an adequate, meaningful and effective economic integration on the continent. The economic aspects of a nation move at a slower pace without a political push and we can only push it effectively in Africa only when we have political integration. The respective individual countries in Africa are faced with many internal problems that they do not find it easy to allow an economic integration on a silver platter and that has been the real problem facing the regional blocs. If we do have a political integration, then it will facilitate the economic integration. If ECOWAS or the other regional groupings were talking about a political integration i.e. a regional government, then indeed I believe that our economic integration would have been much better than it is now especially looking at the years they have been in existence. The problems of these regional groupings would not have been there to be used as arguments by those objecting to an African unity today. We need a Political power in Africa to push the economy of Africa forward and at a faster rate. Those advocating regional blocs are merely averting their minds to the fact that if the regional groupings are able to develop, then it will be used as a basis for an African Unity. But I must say that they have not been able to show us into detail how that is to be done and more so these regional groupings are not political groupings but merely economic groupings seeking economic integration and nothing else. Their only argument is that the European countries were able to develop on their own before talking about integration. They must remember that all those development started from a point; a point where they used most of their resources and raw materials from Africa during the colonial period. They used almost everything they could lay their hands upon on the African Continent and elsewhere. After the de-colonization process, these European countries had enough to continue with the developmental processes. These among others, are the reasons why the individual countries in Europe were able to develop on their own before talking about integration. The case of Africa is different. We find ourselves in a situation where we face a world economic order that is unfavorable to us. A world economic order that has been fashioned out in such a way that African countries continue to export raw materials to the advanced countries but whose prices we do not even determine. We therefore earn little and insignificant foreign exchange incapable of solving our internal problems. We find ourselves in a situation where the resources of Africa are unevenly distributed and the partitioning of Africa came to worsen the situation. This has resulted in a situation where some countries have more resources whilst others have so little. Countries like Mali, Benin, Chad and Burkina Faso can hardly talk about resources whilst some countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and the North African countries have vast resources only that most of them are in the raw state waiting to be processed. When Africa is united, all of these resources will belong to a one Africa Nation, which will be managed to ensure an even development and distribution of wealth on the continent reducing poverty drastically and ensuring a comprehensive education of the vast majority who are illiterates. Some people are also advocating for a Unity at a time when there are no conflicts on the continent whether civil, tribal, ethnic or whatever. They argue that Africa is beset with a myriad of conflicts such that these conflicts have to be resolved before we can start talking about unity. I respectively submit that such advocates have failed to do an in depth and detailed analysis of the root causes of African problems. I can strongly submit that African problems are rooted in our failure to achieve political unity. I will start my analysis with an explanation of the causes of these tribal and ethnic conflicts. When people find themselves in a geographical area, which is clearly demarcated and defined for which one cannot easily move from one geographical area to another, they begin to redefine themselves over a period of time. This redefinition takes the form of trying to ascertain the causes of their woes and problems, those responsible for their problems/woes, and also who is superior to the other. This takes place within a period of time, which is usually over a longer period, and then one tribal or ethnic group begins to marginalize the other. The situation gets even worse where poverty, ignorance and illiteracy is the order of the day in such an area. This subsequently leads to tribal and ethnic conflicts worsened by dictatorial regimes and despots. The reverse of the situation is that where we find ourselves in a larger bloc like Africa, tribal conflict will be an insignificant problem and may not even arise. When we have an Africa Unity, some of these media houses through which ethnic and political sentiments are mostly perpetrated will channel their resources and time to much better political and economic issues. The wider circulation that these newspapers will enjoy, will not give them the chance to concentrate on ethnic issues as it is the case in some countries in Africa. Whenever one is confined and limited to an area, the mode of behavior changes and when frustrated, due to poverty and ignorance, conflicts are bound to erupt. This has accounted in part, to the numerous problems in Africa. With a One Country Africa, the situation will be different . When people are frustrated they can easily move from one place to the other. E.g. Ghanaians can move to Nigeria, Nigerians can move to South Africa and South Africans can move to North Africa. Governments will be more focused on uniting the people instead of trying to adopt a divide and rule system as happened in the past and continues to happen in some countries in Africa. One advantage to us as Africans when we unite is that the bigger population will serve as a source of attraction to investors and their rate of inflow will be much rapid. These investors will have the whole population as their market base. Their products can easily move from one country to the other with little or no political barriers as it is the case now. China is a good example of a country that has received massive inflow of investors due to its high population. As things are now, investors have to contend with smaller populations within these individual countries in Africa. The location of these industries is also a problem they have to contend with. When united, these industrial products, wherever located, will enjoy free movement across borders without geographical and market limitations. Resources will be abundant, labor will be readily available both skilled and unskilled and we can secure much bigger loans from international financial institutions with much ease to solve our problems. Our bite of the international cake will be much bigger. The resources at our disposal will now be used to our advantage. We will be in a position to dictate the price on the world market to enable us secure much foreign exchange to help develop our economy. We can also stimulate and increase local consumption. Americans produce and consume locally with little exports as compared to local consumption. And one thing that has propelled America to its wealth is a saying that ‘just produce one thing and let a million people buy it - you are a millionaire.’ This saying has actually stimulated productivity and because of the population, wealth is always been created. If it’s easier to be rich in America, then it should be much easier to be rich in Africa. We can do that for ourselves here in Africa and get richer even though we seem to be poor now. If a country like Britain, with its size and population, can command so much power and wealth in the world, how much more Africa, standing as a united people, and having our resources together, and making use of it over a period of time. Whatever conflicts we are facing now are due to poverty, diseases, illiteracy and ignorance. All these will be easier to solve when we have an African Government. A standing African Army will be sent to various conflict regions to quell the tribal conflicts. The refugee situations created will not even arise since people can move from one place to the other whenever there are conflicts and will not be regarded as refugees. What we need to understand is that the various conflicts in Africa have been created as a result of the European partitioning of Africa. This was done haphazardly to suit the European interest and never took into consideration the various and many ethnic groups in Africa. The partitioning was done without due regard to the tribes and so they were divided and separated. We now find parts of tribal and ethnic groups in different countries in Africa. In West Africa e.g. to the west of Ghana are found the Ashanti group and part of it in Ivory Coast. To the North of Ghana we have part of the ethnic groups in Ghana and in Burkina Faso. To the East of Ghana we find the Ewe group in Ghana and part in Togo. Within a particular country in Africa, you can find as many tribes as possible that have their family members in other neighboring countries. This situation cannot be said of Europe. Europe had the chance to develop much easier because they were separate from each other and were not forcefully grouped together or partitioned. We have the French as a country, the Germans as a country, Portuguese as a country and the Spanish as a country. In the UK where we have a combination of the British, Irish, Scottish and the rest, there has been conflicts up to today. This is an indication of the fact that if tribes or groups of people who clearly identify themselves as a group, are not allowed to grow together, but are forcefully joined with others, there are bound to be conflicts and the situation becomes worse when there is adverse poverty. That has been the problem of Africa. Had we been given the chance to grow based on ethnic groupings, conflicts would have been limited. Each individual tribe could have become countries today on the continent. But for now, that is the problem we have and it has to be solved. So what we have to do and indeed the only solution available to us is to have an African Unity. Unity in diversity promoted by an African Government is the option available to us now. The separate Countries in Africa have not succeeded in granting us the much needed unity among Africans. We do regard ourselves as Africans but we are still divided on the continent based on individual country lines. One thorny issue facing the achievement of an African Unity is the concept of Sovereignty. This concept is expressed in Latin as “ Par in parem non habat imperium” meaning “ an equal cannot exercise authority over an equal and that all states are equal.” What has been happening on the continent is that most African leaders have kept to themselves powers they have assumed in their respective countries and are unwilling to cede it for the benefit of an African Unity. Some of these leaders are so power drunk that they have held unto this sovereignty so much so that they are not ready to cede it in any way. Our leaders always go for OAU meetings just to waste our little resources and come back with little or no implementation of decisions taken at such meetings. We are just delaying our progress and the earlier we work towards unity the better. Because for me I do not see what stops us from uniting now. Everything comes by just a decision and the willingness to do it. Where there is a will there is a way. What I can say is that our African leaders go for such meetings as representatives of their people but only get there to talk for themselves. I am saying this because the majority of the people on the African continent believe that an African Unity will work for us and actually want us to be united but our leaders are the ones delaying the process. I will thus throw up a challenge to our leaders, that if possible, they should organize a referendum before the next African Union meeting on the question whether they should decide on an African Unity at that meeting or not and they will be surprised at the response. It is a fact that African Leaders do not always want to relinquish power and they have a feeling that an African Unity will limit the kind of power they want to enjoy. The principles of political self-determination postulated by the United nations gives us the right to determine our political future and thus our leaders should give us the chance to determine the political future of Africa. Indeed General Assembly Resolution 1514 on the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Territories and its People articulates this principle and states in paragraph 2 that “ all people have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” This article was re-stated in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By these provisions, we call on our leaders to give us that chance to freely determine our political, economic, social and cultural development. What I have realized is that our leaders are not ready to take the bull by the horn and “damn” the consequences in order to push Africa forward. All we can observe is a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to African Unity. The farthest they can go is just to avert our minds to the fact that Africa needs unity and that Africa must be united. But they do not sit down, as Africans and as African leaders, to decide on how, when and what kind of unity we need. We have been conscientised and made to believe and understand that concentrating on our internal problems and solving them gradually will be a gradual step towards unity, which I believe is like climbing the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket or trying to achieve an objective by reverse processes, which is impossible. What I want to say is that looking at the way we have been battered over the years, it is only prudent for us to unite and that it is only a unity on the continent that can actually bring to us, the kind of progress and development we need so desperately. Individual countries may try to do it on their own but cannot compete with the western world. We as Africans have to understand that we have one common Dream and one Destiny and until we realize this and work towards it, we cannot achieve any significant progress on the continent and we shall forever remain dependent and subservient to the advanced world. We need to sit up and to focus on the African Dream and to work towards it, and in the end we stand to benefit. Poverty, diseases, illiteracy and ignorance shall be a thing of the past. For me, when it comes to African Unity, I do not think about the problems associated with it because I know that the moment we integrate, the problems will begin to disintegrate. I will like to end with a quotation to serve as an inspiration and motivation us all. It comes from an article written with the title ‘WITH DETERMINATION WE SHALL MAKE IT’ published as an editorial in one of the Ghanaian newspapers - The Chronicle ; dated 15th February, 2001. ‘It is universally acknowledged that man is a complex creature whose activities and behavioral patterns are to a large extent influenced by his mind. The sages, philosophers and great religious leaders since the beginning of time have therefore displayed rare unanimity in their conviction that a man is what he thinks he is. The universal emphasis placed on positive thinking as a pre-condition for success in any enterprise is therefore premised on this conviction. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’ is a popular saying which goes to reinforce this widely - held view that with determination a man can transcend his immediate horizons and attain heights previously considered to be beyond his capabilities. Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey epitomizes this philosophy of life when he declared that old age still had its honor and that before the end some noble deed could still be done.’ This positive statement has been my way of thinking and I share the view that with determination we shall succeed. We should just stay focused and believe that we have a Dream and we have a Destiny. That will carry us through for Africa is one and shall forever remain one no matter what. That is the African Dream and the African Destiny. Africa United as ONE. Isaac Minta Larbi 8702 Dulwick Court #21 Laurel, M.D. 20708 USA. Tel/Fax: + 301-725-7670
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