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African Unity: The Final Frontier
Reissue 2 Volume 1: Summer 2002, Pg 5
By Ras Weero
Haile Selassie I with the "Casablanca Section"
of the Organization
for African Unity, including Milton Obote (Uganda)
Julius Nyerere (Tanzania)
Kenneth Kuanda (Zambia) Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya) and others.
Is Africa really fragmented, and has independence been achieved on this great continent only to see the African nations themselves transform differences into divisions? And are such divisions as already exists, imposed upon us by history and circumstance, to be widened and deepened by our own efforts? Let Us say, first of all, that Ethiopia considers herself a member of one group only – the African group. We will join in any deliberations, we will consider any plan, we will debate any proposal anywhere, and at any time, provided that it contributes to the maintenance of world peace, the development of Africa’s human and material resources, and the protection of this continent’s legitimate interests. When we Africans have been misled into pigeonholing one another, into attributing rigid and inflexible views to states which were present at one conference but not another, then we shall, without reason or justification, have limited our own freedom of action and rendered immeasurably more difficult the task of joint efforts, in harmony and brotherhood, in the common cause of Africa.
- Words of His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I
"The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart."
- Osaagyefo Kwame Nkrumah
"How good and how pleasant it would be to see the unification of all Africans."
- Bob Marley (Berhane Selassie)
A look into history reveals that Africans, by virtue of culture, have in the past lived in unity. The interdependent nature of the African communal system emanated from the fact that every person has a moral right and obligation to what abounds in the land. This created a framework for communal/interdependent living for succeeding generations. Africa, having been the victim of invasions and conquests over centuries by those in search of wealth and dominion, has had its landscape altered. The level of change has been so intense that it has permeated all aspects of life, including spirituality, politics and economics. Today, these forces whose main aim is to keep us apart for the purpose of control are still at work, looking for new and subtle ways to divide us.
African Heads of State, politicians and individuals have for long shouted out slogans in favor of continental unity. Some of these individuals see the logic in the economic unity of Africa, but view it as something to be discussed in the talk-shop, rather than be actualized. They make it seem as if the divisions that have come into existence in the last millennia are insurmountable. This is far from the truth. Osaagyefo Kwame Nkrumah appropriately sums it up in the above quote when he points out that the bonds of unity that exist among us are stronger than what seems to divide us. Today, unity in Africa is needed more than ever in the face of growing world blocs and economic dominance. It must be pointed out here that unity is all-encompassing, and cannot be restricted to economic or political unity alone.
The Extraordinary Summit of the OAU held in Sirte, Libya on 9 September 1999 called for the establishment of an African Union in conformity with the ultimate objectives of the OAU Charter and the provisions of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. Following this, the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted during the Lomé Summit of the OAU on 11 July 2000. The Union will evolve from the OAU and the AEC (African Economic Community) into one unified institution. The Union hopes to bring into existence a Pan-African Parliament, a Court of Justice, Central Bank, Monetary Fund, and Investment Bank which will help to:
- Achieve greater unity between countries
- Defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states,
- Promote democratic principles, institutions and good governance,
- Promote and protect human and peoples' rights, and
- Help the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy
- Among other objectives.
The Pan African Parliament initially will have consultative and advisory powers only, while its ultimate goal is to evolve into an institution with full legislative powers, whose members are elected. As currently written, the Parliament will consist of five members from each state, at least one being a female. As the African Union progresses, a common currency will be introduced for the continent, and a common Defense Force will be established. There are over 50 Africans States, and they trade far more with the rest of the world than they do with each other.
The strategy for establishing the African Union bore some of the hallmarks of the preceding organization. Why, for instance, should an African Union be modelled after the European Union? Can't we create something for ourselves? It was Pliny (the Greek) who once said: "There is always something new coming out of Africa." What has happened to this impetus of creativity? Have we buried it under piles of worthless euro-centric theories – to the extent that we always have to copy from them or seek their approval in anything we do? We should be able to create something from and for ourselves. Modelling an African Union after a European one can only serve the interests of the latter in the long run. We should be careful not to facilitate their plunder of our dearly beloved motherland.
But again, are there any obvious differences between the OAU and the AU? Will it not be wise to look at why the OAU became defunct?
The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, on signature of the OAU Charter by representatives of 32 governments. A further 21 states joined gradually over the years, with South Africa becoming the 53rd member on 23 May 1994. The following were the objectives set out by the OAU:
To promote the unity and solidarity of African States; co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; promote international co-operation, giving due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and co-ordinate and harmonize members' political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defense policies.
The year 2000 saw the transformation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union. The fifth Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of African Unity ended with support from the 53 member states for the Constitutive Act which established the African Union. In general, the objectives of the African Union (as summarized earlier) are not much different from those of the OAU. Most of them are realistic and attainable. However, some of these objectives set forth in both the OAU and African Union raise serious questions. One such objective, which is to "Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States," is a highly questionable one.
How can we set up union designed to preserve the dividing forces among us? Why does defending the territorial integrity of member states take precedence over defending the territorial integrity of Africa, unified as a whole? Have we forgotten that these so-called countries were not created by us but by the conference of Berlin (1885), which partitioned Africa for a purpose that is still being served by them?
In effect, the African Union is in danger of signing its own death warrant from the offset – just as its predecessor did. The sovereignty of member states must be 'conditioned' to the needs of a united Africa. In unity we must defend the territorial integrity of Africa as one, and also realize that there is no point in preserving the independence of member states unless that independence is linked to the total liberation of Africa.
Rastafari in all territories can help achieve unity by spreading the word – in whatever way possible – and working ceaselessly towards the attainment of on Aim, God and Destiny. We must remember that sometimes change does not come from political leadership but from the will of the people. It was the will of the people that brought down the Berlin wall and not that of the German political leadership. If we become well informed on why unity is the only way to preserve our existence, then we can put pressure on our various 'countries' to bring down the artificial barriers and unite as one.
Africans in the Diaspora should bear in mind that until Africa is free, none who bear the identity and mark will be free. Africans in the Diaspora can put pressure on the African Union to gain representation in that body – not with the intention to 'dominate' or 'teach', but to make essential contributions as part of one African family. It is only then that the issues of African citizenship for Africans in the Diaspora – Repatriation and Reparations – can be accorded an adequate forum for discussion and eventual implementation.
Together let us make our motherland a better place for the coming generations and ourselves. Let us bring this into reality by reflecting on the words of the honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, "Up you mighty race; you can accomplish what you will!"
"…When semantics are stripped away, there is little argument among us. We are determined to create a union of Africans. In a very real sense our continent is unmade; it still awaits creation and its creators. It is our duty and privilege to rouse the slumbering giant of Africa, not to the nationalism of Europe in the 19th century, not to regional consciousness, but to the vision of a single African brotherhood bending its united efforts towards the achievement of a greater and nobler goal. Above all we must avoid the pitfalls of tribalism. If we are divided among ourselves on tribal lines, we open our doors to forgive intervention and its potentially harmful consequences."
- Words of HIM Emperor Haile Sellassie I, (May 1963)
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