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Tue, 21 Jan 2020 05:00 GMT

Has the OAU/AU Come of Age?


Fitsum Getachew

Tue, 04 Jun 2019 07:56 GMT

The main objectives of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, (then replaced by the AU, African Union in 2013) were to liberate Africa from the yoke of colonialism and of the minority racist regimes of southern Africa. We could say they succeeded in doing just that. But Africa did not free itself of various forms of dependency despite its ‘independence’ which was soon dubbed ‘flag independence’. The influence of the former master economically and culturally was overwhelming in many areas. The term ‘neocolonialism’ was aptly coined to describe it. It was said Africa was not blessed with the right, indigenous leaders.  

Such dependence could have been tolerated if it was to contribute to the improvement of the lot of Africans. However, this was not the result. The association of former masters with current leaders only resulted in further crisis created by the race for personal glory and wealth by few individuals. Democratic elections were a rarity.

African leaders first of all did not always agree on what sort of government they needed to form or how to lead their citizens. Old rivalries fuelled by factions, ethnic or tribal origin became a huge constraint. Those closely associated with the old colonial masters were the ones who benefited from privileges.

Contracts and projects were awarded to foreign companies, accomplices of these leaders. Africa’s rich natural resources became more of a curse rather than a blessing. The economy was controlled by a few. Employment was not commensurate with population growth.

Serious and long term planning and strict implementation would have been imperative but the contrary was the rule. Education and training were neglected, job opportunities were not planned and applied. The ultimate result was despair for the youths who resort to the dangerous routes of migration and trafficking.

Democratic institutions were never consolidated. Free press, independent judiciary and elections commissions remained rare. The military remained crucial if not singularly decisive encouraging authoritarian rule in a world where democracy has become a fundamental right. Freedom and initiatives disappear with persecution of dissent becoming the norm; the prospects of life in prison push people to exile. What would the founders of the 56 year old continental body say?

Africa’s loss of its best educated children to rich countries has further exacerbated the crisis. The latest figures of doctors of African origin in America and Europe are staggering and tragic against the backdrop of scarcity in Africa. Such loss appears even worse than the capital and cash its leaders stash in foreign banks! No amount of ‘foreign assistance’ would redeem such a vacuum!

The vicious cycle of poverty hence reigns. And with Africa’s potential it becomes twice as painful. The continental body’s discussions on all these and other issues have not resulted in any tangible solutions. ‘The year of the youth’, ‘the year of refugees and returnees’ and so forth; we can have as many themes as there are years of Africa Day, but what is outstanding is poor results. ‘Talk is cheap’ the saying goes, and Africans seem to strive to manage crisis rather than avert it, most of which is too little too late.

Of course not everything must be dismissed as failure. Africa is also the continent of hope. Certain numbers must keep our morale high. An average continental growth rate of 5% over the last 15 years, and the presence of half of the world’s top ten most dynamic economies in it, is a sign of hope.

The expedited process towards the objectives of ‘Agenda 2063’ looking for ‘the Africa we want’ could be cited as positive. Sustained and inclusive development, peace and security across the continent and more and more integration with the latest developments in the Continental Free Trade Pact and access to African countries without visas, integrated road and rail infrastructure in the making for example are good signs. Progress towards the Agenda 2063, a century after the foundation of the OAU, the precursor of the AU, leaves us with prospects.

However, the challenges are preventing the continent from benefiting fully from its human and natural resources. What the continental body did manage to do was try and settle disputes amongst neighbouring states by containing them, or presenting conditions and a platform for peace talks to initiate. At least this body has been a point of reference for the search of solutions even if durable and reliable solutions remained rare. South Sudan is still in limbo while Somalia’s AU supported government still faces dire challenges.

Clearly displacement both internal and external worries the continent and if the post Bashir crisis in Sudan is not addressed, if the resurgence of violence in the Libyan arena is not curbed soon, if Algeria does not settle its post Bouteflika issues, the displacement may persist unabated.

‘Africa Day’ presents to us the opportunity to focus on certain urgent issues that trouble the continent. Awareness is raised, efforts for solutions may transpire. African integration in this sense is key because a sense of identity and unity could be a good instrument to face problems. The problems do not only belong to Somalia, South Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Sudan or Cameroon, but to the entire continent. Solidarity could be a positive note in the search for solutions.

‘Agenda 2063’ is not an abstract idea, but a programmed and tangible process that could be realised if meticulous care is taken and the founding fathers’ hope of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa became after all.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.