African Union or African Utopia?
By Tom Kamara
March 9, 2001
Splendidly decorated in their best for the occasion, 52 African rulers obediently marched to Tripoli recently to sign the African Union, which is to replace the moribund Organization of African Unity. Even if their continent is immersed in bitter regional conflicts, violent ethnic rivalries, and at the bottom of the world economic and human development ladder, Africa's drowning chiefs, true to their taste for hypocrisy, declared their new little Gaddafi-sponsored toy a resounding success.
In their "Draft Decision", they stood, "To proudly declare the establishment of the African Union by the unanimous will of Member States, and, "That the legal requirements for the proclamation of the union would have been completed upon the deposit of the 36th instrument of ratification of the Constitutive Act of the African Union". The Draft Decision call (ed) upon Member States which have not yet signed and/or ratified the Constitutive Act, to do so as soon as possible."
Gaddafi, impatient about the birth of his "Union" since he has failed in similar endeavours with his Arab relatives, urged the Africans to sign, instructing them that they did not need "a pilgrimage" to affix their signatures to his document. And they obediently did. Sierra Leone's President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, whose rebels were trained in Tripoli to reduce his country, the poorest on earth by UN calculations, to primitive levels, was prominently featured holding intimate discussion with the Colonel in "union." Perhaps it is time to acknowledge the truth in the Libyan diplomat Ali Treiki's theory, advanced in the 70s that, "a bag of cash can take care of any problem in Africa." Otherwise, it is difficult to understand why Sierra Leone's Kabbah, of all rulers, can see Libyan as a positive factor in his country's sorrows. This ought to explain his docile attitude towards Taylor, a prominent Libyan protégé.
Many of those in Tripoli dancing to Libyan drums have been at the forefront of continental disunity and its attendant anarchy with untold human suffering, factors that have made Africa's socio-economic and political landscape replete with suspicions, vendettas, and rising xenophobia. Ordinary Liberians have turned against Libyans, Burkinabes, and Ivorians for orchestrating and promoting their present horrors and seemingly inescapable poverty. While their president was dinning in Libya, they were pleading with him to take home since the life in the Ivory Coast for Liberians is now unbearable. Sierra Leoneans, Guineans, know the word "Liberia" as an anathema, a symbol of their living hell. Angolans see the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an instrument that has fostered their agony for over 25 years by backing the ruthless UNITA rebels and their infinitely ambitious leader Jonas Savimbi. Congolese see Rwandans and Ugandans as invaders bent on determining their political fate. Eritrians see Ethiopians as colonizers who would not let them free without a bloody war halted by the whiteman. Somalis have decided that it is better to live as opposing feudal clans than within a nation-state. Cameroonians and Nigerians kill each other over a piece of land, while in Nigeria itself, religion has become more important than the survival of the country as a unified entity. Togo and Ghana have been at odds for years with allegations and counter allegations of destabilization plots hashed against ruling elites in each country. Ivorians see Burkinabes as people who want to usurp their country and rule it, and they have extended their xenophobia to all Africans within their borders. South Africa remains a no-go-country for black Africans, with every blackman, including black South Africans, seen as an unwanted foreigner until he can prove his nationality. Moreover, white South Africans, particularly the Afrikaners bent on maintaining Apartheid, have not been asked if they want a Union dominated by darkskins. Religious pogroms and political violence speak more of a continent in disarray than in union. Yet, with all these hurdles, African rulers, justifying their image for pretence, believe a "union" is born indeed.
But the scars of disunity and xenophobia are everywhere on the continent. Hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans were killed this year in the "Mecca" of the "Union"- Libya. Tens of thousands black Africans were deported from Libya after bloody attacks by Libyans feeling their country has been captured by the darkies prepared, and only too happy to do menial jobs they despised. Among those deported were Liberians, Malians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, etc. But the deceiving high priests of this African Union would like to market the notion that all Africans, because they occupy a single landmass, are the same, with the same aspirations, the same problems, the same ancestral and cultural attributes, and therefore needing a union to solve their problems. There could be nothing further from the truth and the reality, as noted by Senegal President Wade when he says that an African in Cote D'Ivoire is more of a foreigner than being in Europe. The same is true with African refugees in many African countries.
Yet, the utopian delusions speak of a union. Liberia's Charles Taylor, the best-known destabilizer in West Africa in recent times, hailed the "Union" as a great success. He told his ever-mobilized cheering squads in darkness and without the basics of life such as safe drinking water that the Africa Union means the "Dark Continent" is ready to be transformed into a provider of light. "By this solemn declaration", Taylor declared in irredeemable ineptitude and conscious lies, "we seek to transform our long-exploited weaknesses into towers of strength. By this declaration, we realistically ensure the equality of all peoples, including African people, emphazising our desire to maximize our great natural endowments primarily for the development of our welfare. By this declaration, we raise the profile of our Dark Continent against the periscope of harsher political and economic realities fashioning the expectations of our people for a better, brighter tomorrow."
Here lies the curse of the African buried deep in the criminal nature of political leadership. While in Tripoli, the UN Security Council was nailing and indicting this callous thief for regional destabilization, the theft of Sierra Leone's diamonds and his accompanying horrors such as the amputation of limbs of children, women and men.
Even if one is to take seriously this dreamy concept, there are a number of unanswered questions: What are the political, technical and structural guarantees that thus "Union" will work where the OAU failed? What are the economic programs of this Union? Since Gaddafi is the brainchild of this Union, would other religions, such as Christianity, be allowed amongst people inherently opposed to competitive beliefs? And what if Governments change within the Union (something that happens frequently and violently in Africa) and a member state opts for secession? Are we likely to see the repeat of the American Civil War to keep member states within the Union and in line? Where will the troops come from to save the Union? From the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya or from Taylor's Small Boys Unit? What are the encouraging pointers drawing a self-declared "born again capitalist" like Taylor into this Union created by the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya? How will this Union handle the political decay on the continent, ensuring that con artists and thieves are not perpetually elevated to leadership positions as we now see in a number of countries, including Liberia created by Gaddafi if this the goal for progress?
It may be an African Union, but the questions around this fantasy are endless. Indeed an African Union, but only a union of like-minded dictators and thieves without their people's endorsement. Such is no union, only the beginning of more confusion and endless conferences. Behold Mother Africa! Your children weep for leadership and salvation.