Is Renascent Africa Developing by Uniting and Integrating 50 Years After Ghana's Independence?
”If we are to remain free, if we are to enjoy the full benefits of Africa's rich resources, we must unite to plan for our total defence and the full exploitation of our material and human means in the full interest of our people. To go it alone will limit our horizon, curtail our expectations and threaten our liberty.”. Kwame Nkrumah
When the threads unite, they can tie a lion—Ethiopian wisdom
It is fifty years since Ghana became independent and the first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana's independence as nothing but a great launching pad for the full and complete liberation of the rest of Africa. It is 43 years since the OAU was formed. It is five years since the AU has been established. It is remarkable how Africa is now caught in what Karl Polyani would have described as the 'double movement'. Once more the great debate to pursue the goal of an accelerated united Africa has picked up momentum by using this half century as a moment to pause and reflect the past in order to chart the future and face the challenges ahead and look far ahead to make Africans fully democratic, rich and strong.
2. Overcoming Fragmentations
A key opportunity to make redundant the colonial project that has put apart arbitrarily separated communities that should be together exists by pursuing an African Union Government. Equally important, arbitrarily clubbed together communities that should have been allowed to self-define themselves with a perspective to deepen integration can pursue unity on the higher plane of African unity. The July 2007 AU meeting of the Heads of States has one and only agenda: The African Union Government! 1957 was a milestone in linking Ghana's freedom to the freedom of all Africa. 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was critical in creating a forum for African independent states to decolonise and de- apartheidizes fully Africa. 2002 was critical for accelerating unity by changing OAU into AU in Durban, South Africa, Today in July 2007 in Accra an African Union Government may be the outcome! Once again Africans are pausing and reflecting after 50 years of decolonisation what are the hard gains that the people of Africa have scored separately as communities and collectively as Africans? The quest to unite has become also the urge to unite. The real work starts when such a breakthrough comes.
3. The Double Movement
The double movement is unfolding in Africa with all the ramifications that open both opportunities and risks. Opportunities, because there is the positive attempt to unite, to create new institutions and move to establish the African Union Government. Risks because there is also the persistence of the problems in Africa such as the usual difficulties of the unending presence of endemic conflicts, the lack of a security community, lack of meaningful economic integration. The double movement back to a persistent conflict or forward to a united, strong, prosperous and democratic Africa remains to unsettle the proposed plans to go beyond the constraints that have continued to complicate positive progress in Africa. But the bold proposed agenda for an African Union Government is highly inspiring. It is a big bang strategy that can potentially open a space to deal with Africans continuing difficulties from a united perspective, vision and possibility. From the recent meetings in Durban to Pretoria, and coming in July in Accra, on the agenda is one and only one issue… forming the African Union Government? NES salutes the formation of this Government but hopes it will be anchored in the course of time on the will of the united people of Africa the world over to self- govern and be totally democratic, free, self-reliant, and renascent by innovating the Africa nation and the integrated African economy.
4. African Unity is non-negotiable
The EU in its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) strategy to be signed in 2008 claims to treat Africa as one entity. But the EU still differentiates and employs differing policies that may not stimulate its one Africa declaration. South Africa, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and other differentiations are made after this recognition of a one Africa or Pan-Africa framing by EU!
There is an urgent need to overcome the reality and legacy of the arbitrary divisions of the colonial period. It is still unacceptable that Africans remain divided by the identities of the 19th century European partition of the continent. To this day still, Africans' identity continues to be defined regrettably by Anglophone and Francophone and other externally mediated descriptions. The African Union (AU) must build a positive Africaphone national identity.
The elite crave the externally orientated identity. Not all ordinary Africans are infected by this need for external identity hybridity. The AU must counter this disease by projecting a strong national African identity. Africa is neither Anglophone nor Franchophone. It is Africaphone. AU must be forged to affirm this transition from externally mediated to nationally mediated African identity and must embody and become the expression of this structural transformation.
The acid test for the AU's success or failure lies in the degree to which it becomes the expression of will and citizenship rights of the millions of ordinary Africans.
Citizenship and membership to social and economic rights must not be restricted to members of the elite and those that serve the elite. All Africans are citizens of Africa. The African public sphere must be forged. How can the 350 million of Africa's who live below the poverty line feel they are full citizens? Ill-being from material deprivation to psychic dislocation continues to subtract the ordinary African's humanity and liberty.
The AU must be the organisation in the interest of the ordinary African person. It must resist donor- local elite driven definition of limiting African citizenship to serve mainly foreign corporate and local elite interests. It must go for multiplying the well-being of ordinary Africans by uniting their efforts, talents, resources and ingenuities.
The AU must re -establish a new social contract amongst African peoples, regions and states on the basis of African national identity. It can establish the inter-African social contract only by being prepared to mount a determined struggle to rework the existing unjust international social contract that has been built on the subordination and alienation of Africa. Africans normal inclusions as citizens of Africa requires some form of strenuous energy, education, discernment, resistance and defiance amongst Africans themselves and others who are prepared to understand the African predicament.
It cannot be given. It must be earned by Africans. And the process of Africans burst into history involves necessarily internal and external social, economic and political rearrangements.
The AU's job is cut out to turn all Africans from oppressed persons into full and free citizens. This needs the AU to be angry at the way things are; and to have the courage to make Africans full bearers of social and economic rights and entitlements.
Difficulty be-devilling Africa's progress is conflict related to its status as a fragmented and not united security community. This fragmentation and parcelling of Africa is a result from the setting up of arbitrary political real estates and entities by the colonial powers (e.g., Britain, France, Germany Portugal and Italy) during the infamous Scramble for Africa in the 19th century.
The legacy of this arbitrary and irrational geopolitical division of Africans has exacerbated the ethnic rivalries in the continent. In addition it has created a whole range of largely unviable “states trying to forge nations within the arbitrary boundaries bequeathed from colonialism.” Of the 53 states in Africa, 22 can be categorized as micro-states, each consisting of less than 5 million people; another 12 are mini-states, each having between 5 and 10 million people only.
States go to war to protect borders which they should have rejected. And any meaningful development project within such mini states and micro- states fractured along ethnic lines has proved difficult to pull off.
The AU holds the best hope of casually cancelling the casual tear- up of the continent by the imperial powers. The momentum from the AU is beginning to bear fruit with a few of the long conflicts entering a new phase of dialogue. It is vastly important that the AU is built as the credible centre to overcome this ugly legacy from history.
There is thus a lot of hope invested in making Africa's freedom through unification. Unification under the AU will make sense if Africa begins to manifest a new agency to define its priorities to deal with a system that has learned to exploit but not develop Africa.
The AU is Africa's new hope. It must be Africa's anger at the unjust system, as it becomes Africa's courage to build a new, strong and happy Africa. The AU has to make the choice: fulfil popular expectations or betray it. We hope it will create positive goals and confidence for Africans to chart a new course in the world.
When Africa achieves peace, there will be peace not in our time but for all time!
* The author is chair of the Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES) Scandinavian Chapter. He can be reached at [email protected]
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