Is the long African drought over ?

BY: Arku Jasmine

It is right and proper that the African Union (AU), the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) should launch a year-long Golden Jubilee Celebrations to commemorate the birth of African unity fifty years ago. I have been privileged to meet and discuss the OAU with many from different walks of life during the past six weeks.

I am disappointed with both the OAU and the AU, but a number of those I talked to were appreciative of the achievements of the organisations, and some, especially the young, were hopeful.

This hope cheers me up and I expect it to lead to the renewal of self-confidence and the realisation of the fact that the future of Africa depends on Africans. This buoyant  expectation is captured by the Ghanaian fashion designer Oswald Boateng in an article in the ”New African” issue of May 2013.  Boateng recalls that some ten years ago, the prestigious British weekly The Economist described Africa as the “hopeless continent”. Confidence in Africa was then at a low ebb. We in West Africa could not be proud about happenings in our part of Africa.

ECOWAS, instead of being an instrument for systematic economic and social development, had become an organisation for keeping the peace and stopping unbelievable brutalities.  I was particularly shocked then about happenings in Sierra Leone whose Fourah Bay college was a Mecca for learning in my old school days. 

Looking back at the recent sad past, it is natural to be hopeful especially as the indicators of economic growth in Africa soar. Some therefore see “hope everywhere”. But does economic growth by itself indicate less poverty and better social well-being? Does economic growth determined largely by outside interests lead to sustained development which improves the living and outlook of the people significantly?

The people must be involved in the development process. They through their government must own home grown development plans. I am with Oswald Boateng when he says that “Our future should be made in Africa.”

Africa cannot be developed from outside.  Africans are primarily responsible for their own development. The African Union should galvanise the continent to use its talents and resources to build an Africa of energetic, proud and confident people.  I am not happy with the state of Africa today because the self-confidence of 50 years ago has been largely eroded. We suspect everything made in Africa.

We believe more in millennium development plans fashioned from outside. The long drought can only be over if the African Union looks inward and acts in the interests of the development and dignity of Africa.

Yes dignity is of relevance. We cannot say we are the equals of other nations when our former Heads of State are tried for offences against the people not at home but in foreign lands.  The African Union should be seized of such issues. Some of the actions of some of our Heads of State are terrible and should be addressed not by outside institutions, but by the African Union. 

Only a weak mind believes that violations of human rights are only committed by African leaders. Some heads of state and government of leading countries are as guilty of human rights violations as the African leaders on trial. Africa should show its humanity by trying its brutal leaders on African soil in accordance with processes of the Union.

We live in a global village but we should not allow the norms and practices of others to overwhelm us. We should jettison practices and beliefs which are outdated and which impede progress. But we should liberate the mind from subservience to ideas and practices harmful to the African.

Our future should be made in Africa, while at the same time being informed by all that is good and of value within and outside Africa.