Saturday, August 26, 2006

AfricaThe United States of Africa plan revivedMuammar Gaddafi is determined to bring the proposed United States ofAfrica project to reality.

At a two-day summit in Libya, African presidents argued that a pan-African body with more institutionalreach than the Organisation of African Unity could give the continentgreater bargaining power with the Patrick MutahiThe setting was right and so were the delegates. One of Africa'sfounding fathers and President of Ghana Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was at thepodium giving a keynote address. This was an Organisation of AfricanUnity (OAU) meeting way back in the early 60s, which would seek tochange the face of the continent. Kwame gave out a 21-point proposalfor the creation of the United States of Africa. The meeting ended andKwame is dead but his dream still lingers on with Libyan leaderMuammar Gaddafi now seeking to accomplish what Kwame started. The ideaof African Renaissance is not new, as South African President ThamboMbeki has been trying against all odds to bring out a better face ofthe continent, which has been dubbed by the West as the "DarkContinent."The OAU has been blamed for inactivity and hence there has been avacuum with many African Presidents seeking to fill the void bycreating regional organisations. That's why the idea of a UnitedStates of Africa is appealing to many nations. However, Africans havefor long been united though informally. The All Africa games, AfricaCup of Nations, Kola Musical Awards to name a few attest to thisunity. African also rallied around the then apartheid South Africa andcampaigned for an end to the system and release of Nelson Mandela.Thus, the creation of the United States of Africa is just to formalisethis co-operation and take it a step further. The road has however hasbeen rough and bumpy.Obstacles and divisions surrounded the proposal of an African Unionwhen Gaddafi mooted it. Despite this, on July 12, 1999, 36 Africanleaders signed a draft treaty set to replace the 37-year-old OAUcharter. The draft provides for a council of African heads of state togovern economic, social, political, and health issues. Mostsignificantly, the text of the final document gives the African Unionthe right to intervene in affairs of member states to restore peaceand security in extreme cases, such as if war crimes or genocide havebeen committed. Many have argued that a pan-African body with moreinstitutional reach than the OAU could give the continent greaterbargaining power with the West.African leaders lauded the draft deal as a significant step, but fewpublicly endorsed Gaddafi's plan of establishing a "United States ofAfrica" by 2001. Gaddafi's proposed "African Union" would include theestablishment of an African presidency, a continental parliament, andthe eventual elimination of boundaries and state sovereignty. Algerianpresident Abdelaziz Bouteflika said "realism" was necessary for Africato develop an EU-style organization, while Kofi Annan emphasized thatit had taken decades to establish the EU, and that Africa shouldconsider setting up an "oil and diamond community" as a first step toeconomic unification. South African president Thabo Mbeki alsocautioned that the foundation for an African Union must be laid "stepby step." Gaddafi however was more optimistic and said it was avictory for Africa. That was then and 2001 has dawned.The two-day OAU summit in Sirte, Libya, at the beginning of thismonth, like the first one did not yield promising results as somecountries have not ratified the treaty. In a declaration releasedafter the summit, the signatories said they "solemnly declare thecreation of an African union by unanimous agreement." However, inorder for the declaration to come into effect two-thirds of OAUmembers, (36 countries) need to ratify the agreement. When thethirty-sixth country ratifies the treaty there will be anotherextraordinary meeting.Gaddafi's plans to revive the proposed union are likely to be watereddown by conflicting regional and state interests. Some nations fearthat the establishment of an African Union would derail regionalcooperation initiatives that are already underway. Nigeria, currentlyhead of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), has started aprocess of West African currency unification and trade liberalisation.Ecowas has also made significant progress in easing travelrestrictions in West Africa. Similarly, South Africa enjoys aleadership role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have now revived the East African Communityto boost their trade regionally. But still, most African states tradefar more with the rest of the world than they do with each other.Gaddafi has been called a dreamer by many people but he is workinghard to see his dream turn to a reality. All eyes are on him as wewait and see what good comes out of his efforts. Only time will tellwhether the creation of a United States of Africa will be realised andwhat benefit it will bring be to the continent.------------------------------------------------------------------AFRICANEWSNews & Views on Africa from AfricaKoinonia Media Centre, P.O. Box 21255, Nairobi, Kenyaemail: africanews@iol.it


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