By James Okuk Solomon
July 12, 2007 — Once Hassen Al-Turabi, the former ideologue of National Islamic Front (NIF), was interviewed by a journalist about the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan and he said: “It is a sign of backwardness for the people of Sudan to disintegrate when the whole world is moving towards unity as one global village.” He sited the case the European Union (EU) to support his argument. The same argument seems to have been employed to justify the transformation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into African Union (AU) with a possibility of turning it into a government of United States of Africa. But in my humble insight, unity of already established states is not an easy business because it creates undesirable loss of precious heritages. In Case of EU, you can understand why Britain rejected EURO currency and other required unification factors. Liberal democracy makes it even worst as it was seen in the rejection of EU constitution in the referendum by the few tested European States. Exceptionally, USA was lucky to have united before the down of the era of democracy and liberalism. Will African States becomes united according to Accra Declaration (of 3rd July 2007)?
Let me not judge the possibility of AU government out of context (history) and motives. Historically, the credit started with the Pan-African movement, which got launched in 1900 in London. This was pioneered and spearheaded by some Diaspora Africans (students, civil rights activists, businessmen, singers, etc.) who were moved by the desire for ‘the black pride’, continental solidarity and Africans unity against psychology of inferiority. History documented that the white and the Arab racists intimidated the black races with sarcastic ‘superiority attitude’, which scorned African civilization as savage. Pan-Africanism was backed up by the Negritude movement in France and Harlem Renaissance in USA. Together they propagated the enthymeme that “black is beautiful, rational and intelligent.” They disqualify the whites’ stereotype that “black is ugly, illogical, stupid, arrogant, irresponsible, and good-for-nothing but servitude.”
The Diaspora Pan-Africanists were joined by continental Africans who got an opportunity to study overseas. Together they conducted meetings, congresses, lobbies, activisms, and affirmative actions for the sake of liberating black people and decolonizing them from Arab, European and American masters of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. For example, a big number of free black slaves were repatriated back to Africa from the Western World to form the population of Liberia, which now got the honour of First African Lady president. Pan-Africanists were assisted by some White sympathizers who disliked the evil practices against black races within and outside Africa. (African women were seen nowhere within those movements and the reason is understandable). Those Diaspora and Continental elites presented their views in different world forums after World Wars I and II. They demanded for the involvement of Africans in the affairs of African colonies. They worked hard for the independence of all African States from hegemony of outsiders. Good enough, their call was granted but by bad luck they failed to recognize that those States were colonially designed and never Africans copyright.
Without strategic planning, they grabbed the grant and found themselves as shifted guards entrapped by colonial system of governance. The system turned them into oppressors, dictators and unjust rulers (even at times worse than the colonial masters). This was evident in the conditions that were attached to OAU, right after its inception (by 32 African States in May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) that it should respect colonial borders and never to meddle with internal affairs of any independent State.
OAU was able to achieve its phase one of political liberalization: it managed to decolonize all African States from external intruders and also it dashed apartheid in South Africa (thanks be to H.E. Nelson Mandela for not shifting the practice to blacks). Nonetheless, it failed in phase two of socio-economic and cultural integration, and also in sustainable peace and security. Its purpose of unity and solidarity amongst the independent African States was impaired by internal tribal conflicts and civil wars. Also its goal of co-ordinated cooperation efforts for achieving “a better life for the people of Africa” was questioned by the influx of African refugees overseas and by the internal displacement of African tribes. The contradiction peeved in when the destabilized Africans preferred to seek refuge in the countries of those who enslaved and colonized black races. They accepted to live as satisfied slaves in the Western countries rather than die as African dignitaries in their war ruined and poverty States. The Diaspora Africans who came back home discovered that the ‘black pride’ was only a glorified past. Together with the continental Africans they became disappointed with the worsening situation and resorted to say “I am ashamed to be an African. Therefore, I must quit.”
The Bretton Woods financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, etc.) found a good opportunity to help the independent African States in failing. With their Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) they widened poverty in the continent and looted her precious resources with loans, corruption and undeserved debts. They brought financial figures to Africa but kept, or perhaps, took the cash back to America and Europe in collaboration with their proponent African corruptists. These very same institutions did well in Europe in the post World War II but failed to do the same job in Africa though Africans were also victims of Western wars, interests and intrigues. Why for God’s sake?
Regrettably, it would have been good had Pan-Africanist struggled for the independence and unity of ‘African peoples’ rather than that of ‘African States and governments’. For instance, H.E. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in 1961 said “independence of Ghana is incomplete without independence of all African States because the ultimate objective of the Africans is the United States of Africa.” This could be true for African elites and Head of States and Governments. But I doubt the validity of this argument for the common African peoples – the poor children, women and men at the natural mercy of sub-sahara, equatoria and savanna African lands. This oversight is still haunting Africa even after the transformation of OAU into AU (in July 9, 2001 in Durban, South Africa by the approval of 53 Head of States). This elitism interest is still protracted into the ongoing deliberations for the possibility of AU government, which is regarded as a forecast for a one central powerful government of United States of Africa – perhaps with H.E. Muammar Al-Qadhafi as the Minster of Defence and Social Welfare and H.E. Thabo Mbeki as the Minister of Good Governance and Global Economy. It is still surprising that the focus in Accra Declaration is still on the ‘United Head of States of Africa’ rather than the ‘United Peoples of Africa!’
Why does this centralized and ‘top-down approach’ continue to thrive in spite of the claims of many African States to have become ‘bottom-up democracy’ (i.e. rule of/by/for/with African peoples)? Perhaps because many head of African states who have been pushing and who are still leading for the realization of the United States of Africa are despots who are not ashamed of gerontocracy (i.e., rule by the over-aged) like H.E. Qadhafi of Libya and H.E Abdullah Wad of Senegal. Also late H.E. Nkrumah was termed in BBC radio’s interview by the African renowned Historian, Ali Musrui, as a bad Ghanaian (because of his bad communist governance) but a good Pan-Africanist because of his enthusiasm for United States of Africa.
No doubt, African Elites’ hegemony has spilled down into AU. Despite its mandate to intrude into internal affairs of any African country (in case of humanitarian crisis and humanity crimes), it is still being made passive by the same kinds of Heads of States and governments. AU dwarfism has been clear in the case of Darfur where many African leaders failed to stand united to provide “African Solution to African Problem.” They sent the first AU peacekeeping operation to that war torn region but failed to provide it with logistics and salaries. Even the few donations by EU get delayed in the Headquarters (Addis Ababa), causing a lot of fraudulence suspicions from the soldiers and observers. Most of those Head of States bow to external pressures, threats and spoilages. They prefer to dance to the tune of Americans, British, French and other Western leaders. Why? May be their countries are being assisted and subsidized by the West. May be they hate themselves and are happy to fail their opponents. May be they hate the Arabs and support the Africans in the Sudan. May be they do not want Sudan to become peaceful, united and rich. May be and may be…so many hidden agendas. All these can be summarized into two factors: 1) Poverty of many African States and peoples, and 2) Duality of Northern African countries, which are characterized by Arabs chauvinism and their marginalization of black Africans as lower class citizens.
Looking at the poverty factor, African governments have portrayed themselves as poor in good governance though rich in wealth and Luxury. With the resultant unfavourable economy, they subjected their peoples to morbid material poverty, destitute and survival option for decades (despite the colonial exit). You go to big-brother countries (Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, etc.), if you doubt me, to see by experience what it means when it is said the gap between the rich and the poor is widening in Africa. This makes a critical observer to wonder whether the current continuous poverty, dependency, overseas migration, and socio-economic disparities in the continent would really enable AU government to achieve its visioned goals. The political rhetoric for the credibility of Africa to resolve its internal conflicts, uphold human rights values, and block external pressures authentically has become questionable. African peoples have become aware that injustice by a brother or a sister is still an evil practice with a shifted agent.
Examining the duality factor, the Arab countries have been pretending to be members of AU while at the same time members of the Arab League. They do not really care about the plight of black African peoples! They are only after power and resources gains from the green lands of Africa. They cover their skin and hair with black masks to attend AU summits and fill their jars with white milk from a black cow (e.g. Nile Water). You can see their true colour in their educational curriculum and cultural practices in their own countries – they don’t give a damp to African Heritage! Look at Egypt, other States of North Africa, and Northern Sudan. Check their practices against the black African races and cultures, and you would not doubt my acclamation. Would such dual pretentious Arab States be sincere to the spirit of Pan-Africanism in AU government: Pan-African Parliament, Assembly of the African Union, Executive Council, Economic, Social and Cultural Council, Peace and Security Council, African Court of Justice, African Union Commission, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Permanent Representatives’ Committee, Specialised Technical Committees, and Financial institutions (African Central Bank, African Investment Bank, African Monetary Fund)?
Let history give real African leaders and peoples intelligible memories and references before they opt for the impossible and repeat the failures. Let it be remembered that Pan-Africanism, OAU and AU were ‘elites-oriented’ and never people’s initiative. Their architects did not involve African peoples from the initial to the advanced stages of the formation of those bodies. African common people do not see those institutions as their ownership. Hence, they were/are/will be doomed to failures the very moment their donors and architects disappeared from the scene.
If at all, there is a political will from the African Head of States and Governments for a real establishment of AU government as a forerunner of United States of Africa, its deliberations must be subjected to referendum by African peoples. During the continuous deliberation, AU chapters could be established in all African Countries for the people to participate and voice their views freely about the possibility of the realization of this long-awaited vision of United States of Africa. This might look as an expensive suggestion but it must be considered if African politicians, economists and sociologists really mean unity of African Peoples. I will vote against this vision if given an opportunity of its referendum because I know that I do not share common bonds with an Egyptian, a Libyan, a Tunisian, a Moroccan, an Algerian, a Mauritanian, or an Arab Sudanese in African continent. Nonetheless, if the majority of African peoples vote for this questionable vision, I will congratulate and join them for the sake of democratic compromise and consensus.
* James Okuk is a junior diplomat (Second Secretary) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Sudan. He is also a PhD young Student in the area of Political Philosophy in the University of Nairobi. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org