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African Union is the political unification of the continent still a dream?

BY: Adam Zig-naa Abudulai
Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (middle) and Ghana's first President Kwame Nkrumah (left) at the formation of the OAU in Addis Ababa, 1963
Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (middle) and Ghana's first President Kwame Nkrumah (left) at the formation of the OAU in Addis Ababa, 1963

African Union (AU) day acknowledges the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the erstwhile organisation formed by leaders such as Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and our very own Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana on May 25, 1963.

Formed to mainly address issues of the day such as colonialism and white minority rule in Africa, the organisation's setup and objectives became obsolete as the years went by, hence the formation of its offshoot, the African Union which was officially launched on July 9, 2002.

This new organisation arrived with the huge expectation of being aptly structured to face post-colonial era issues such as intra-state conflicts and the provision of peace and stability in affected areas.

It also had a mounting expectation of rectifying the wrongs of its progenitor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), with the criticism of being a 'dictator's club' which was impotent during crucial events such as the civil wars in Angola and Nigeria and the alleged human rights violations in Uganda under Idi Amin.

Achievements

To some extent, the AU has had some achievements consistent with some of its core objectives of the organisation, such as the promotion of peace and stability all over the continent.

This objective was achieved through the deployment of forces from member states to Dafur, Sudan and to Somalia for peace keeping purposes.

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This, at the very least, broke a barrier that has been described as being a significant failure of the OAU.

The AU has also over the years proved its commitment to promoting democratic principles and institutions by successfully ensuring that the Faure Gnassingbe-inspired coup d'etat in 2005 was put on hiatus till Eyadema Gnassingbe's son was given some legitimacy through his election as President by the people of Togo.

Shortcomings

Conversely, the AU has also fallen short in delivering on its mandate as an organisation on quite a number of instances. At the time of the Libyan crises during the regime of Muammar Gadafi, a former chairperson of the organisation, there was an ad hoc committee formed by the union to mediate the crises.

The committee, made up of five presidents, were prevented from going to Libya to meet Gadafi after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) imposed a no fly zone on Libya and subsequently invaded the country.

This move was very much dissented to by the AU as an organisation, but it was completely powerless when these NATO-led military forces invaded the organisation's jurisdiction with impudence. Also, during the period of the AU's protest to the NATO-led military invasion, certain individual member states such as Botswana, Zambia and Gabon took a dissenting view and supported the invasion by these foreign powers.

This again questioned the solidarity of member states in the union and to some extent the integrity of the organisation, since it asserts that it comprises all 54 countries on the continent.

Unification
Perhaps, the most glaring objective that has eluded the AU is the political unification of the continent. An idea first espoused in African circles by our nation's first president, this idea divided our continent into progressives and incrementalists, the genesis of the Casablanca and Monrovia groups respectively.

After deliberations and shifts in global politics, the Monrovia group triumphed and crafted Africa's future to suit their preference and style, while the progressive leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and his ilk, faced political extinction.

The issue resurfaced over 40 years after the idea was first proposed and a general assembly meeting was held in Accra for deliberations in 2007, the year of our golden jubilee celebration.

The deliberations stemmed from a 2006 study on the prospects of a union government and it proposed various policies which portended the successful end to the AU project.

Leaders such as Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya led the renaissance of the Casablanca group's ideology by proposing the formation of a union army among other progressive policies.

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, however, espoused the Morovian group's ideas of incrementalism. A committee was then set up to research on how the idea of a union government and how it would affect the sovereignty of the member states.

Fast forward to 2018 and the idea is still treated as more of an utopian concept than an actually plausible one by African leaders, especially from countries with larger economies.

The conundrum here is that: is Africa going to continue going by the ideals of the Monrovia group and maintain the status quo of poverty and over-dependence on foreign aid or follow through with the most conspicuous objective of the African Union; that is achieving political unity across the African continent?

Citizens

As citizens of this great continent, it is highly imperative that we involve ourselves more in this potentially monumental project, since we are the people it greatly affects.

Through our persistent lobbying and demands for change by our respective governments, we could easily achieve this objective and face our challenges as a unified body through a union government.

The onus remains more on us than our leaders to determine the future we want for ourselves and our generations to come.

Also, it is absolutely important that we make our participation in this discourse of political unity count by amicably cooperating with one another and policy experts to craft a political system that would be salutary and more importantly, reflect the African personality and culture.

A renaissance of this pan African objective, by us the citizens, would be the end of the monopolised power of the political elite over the continent and usher in a true definition of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The writer is a National Service Person at Savelugu Senior High School in Savelugu.