FEATURE: Inauguration of the African Union

On the 10th of July, in Durban, South Africa, the African Union was officially inaugurated, among its aims and objectives as follows:

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Achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the people’s of Africa;
Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its members;

Promote peace, security and stability of the continent;
Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
Promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African charter on human and peoples’ rights and other human rights instruments;

Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;

Establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
Promote sustainable development at economic, social and cultural levels as well as integration of African economies;
Promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African people;
Co-ordinate and harmonize the policies between existing and future regional economic communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives.

Certainly the proposed structure of the Union is a vast departure from the OAU, modeled on the European Union with a Commission, an African Parliament, Court of Justice, and financial institutions (African Central Bank, Investment Bank and Monetary Fund). Significantly it departs from a state centric approach to involving civil society. The ideas and ideals enshrined within the African Union are laudable and all of Africa watches with a keen eye as to how we are going to pull it off. Africa has been here several times and ended up empty handed, so caution is our key word, as the saying goes “a person bitten before by a snake is afraid of a worm”.

The focus of this article however, is to hold the African Union to its aims and objectives enshrined in an overall Pan-African Agenda. It is no coincidence that origins of the formation of the African Union are saturated with Pan-African sentiments. Its foundations are rooted in the ‘African Renaissance’ promoted by the African Statesman Nelson Mandela and his vice Thabo Mbeki, now the president of South Africa. Thabo Mbeki sourced his inspiration from the principles of Pan-Africanism as advocated by Edward Blyden, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, W.E.B. Du Bois and many more. The Simple tenet of Pan-Africanism was the fact that Africans had once led the world and had the capacity to do it again by pulling together worldwide to change their current predicament. The ideology itself had many dynamics and it was articulated clearly by Blyden, Garvey and Nkrumah through their words and actions. A key word which emanated from the Pan-Africanism of the 19th and 20th was the African Personality.

It was a word descriptive of the African retracing his historical roots not from the point of slavery and colonialism but back to ancient Kemet, Nubia, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, to the great civilization of Africa before European encroachment. Armed with that knowledge the African will know his true heritage and accept his culture and personality. The African personality drove Garvey and Nkrumah to assert their Africaness in the face of the disparaging images across the globe and the key to the African Renaissance, which they believed in, was unity.

The African Union in many was a forced action because Africa has no choice but to integrate as individual countries could not exist on their own with everybody integrating around them. However Africa’s integration is more than an economic exercise, it is a matter of survival for us. The Union has put into action the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), though an African initiative, it has been sent through the mill of the G8 and would certainly benefit them more than us. Therefore in the mist of the fan fair sustaining a true Pan-Africa agenda is the most difficult task, despite the fact that it is the only element that would truly benefit us.

The African Union should be more than economic survival, there has been too much damage done to our psyche for over 500 years that it will require more than economic survival to bring about the African Renaissance. The African Union has the structure and hopefully will get the infrastructure to instill the African personality into their citizens and to gradually reorient our European and American orientation.

The challenges are enormous and daunting but we are beginning to see a leadership that is taking responsibility. Recently during the Liberia crisis African leaders were very proactive in the way in which they handled the crisis. The more Africans work together the better for the African Union. As they continue to see their needs as intertwined then they will act for their mutual benefits with an overall agenda to uplift their people and provide them with a better existence. They cannot forget the past, because the past would guide them as to what to do in the future. The detractors of the Pan-African agenda have not disappeared they have just evolved.

As we celebrate the new African Union and its new partnership with the rest of the world we must ensure that it sustains a true Pan-African Agenda the only way we stand to benefit as Africans.