Africa Must Unite: But Behind Whom? – OpEd


By Kofi Ali Abdul Yekin

his July is again time for another African-wide election to be held during the 19th Africa Union Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, between 15 -16 July 2012 that will be deciding who shall be manning the AUC (Africa Union Commission) for another four years. Interestingly, with barely a month to go, the Ad hoc Committee of eight set up to present the 54 AU Assembly members with potential candidates have met first on the 17 March, 2012 and again on the 14 May, 2012 in Cotonou, Benin without a final outcome. It is even more interesting to know that the Ad hoc committee is planning for a final meeting on the eve of the AU election to decide who the AUC Chairperson candidates shall be, thereby giving the delegated electorates barely less than 12 hours to make a choice on who shall be the AUC Chairperson.

The four-year term of Jean Ping popularly referred to as ‘AU Era of Diplomacy’ came to an end in January 2012 and in his effort to seek another four years mandate to lead the AU, he contested the position with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a fierce election battle that ended with no clear winner. After repeating the contest for the third time, Jean Ping ended up standing alone as the rivals stepped down and despite this, all that the incumbent AUC Chairperson was able to muster was 32 votes, 4 votes less than the required 36 votes to qualify for another four years term. The initial reaction of the AU Assembly to the election outcome was to appoint the Vice AUC Chairman Erastus Mwencha to serve as an interim Chairman of the AUC for six months until another election, but this was later reversed for the incumbent to serve the interim period.

Unlike any election ever held at the AUC level this inconclusive AUC Chairmanship election of 31 January, 2012 between the incumbent Ping and contender Nkosozana, exposed the significance of the office under contention in the business of the AU. In fact, the AUC Chairmanship as an office conferred on a single person confirmed itself as the most important and the highest single institution of all the AU institutions. This is different from whatever we have seen in the past 49 years of the Union’s history.

This recent election proved that if some slight modifications are employed in broadening the participation and the procedure of arriving at who occupies the highest single office, the AUC Chairmanship will easily assume equal status to the President of America or China or at the least, India. This then will be saving us all the humiliation of having the AU divided by member states leaders, as is currently the case with Professor Atta Mills of Ghana, Boni Yayi of Benin and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia running to the USA at the bidding of Barak Obama to seemingly be attending the G8 Summit. Of course this tradition used to be the privileges of Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Jacob Zuma of South Africa until they lost favour. But what does anyone expect from a people who are not controlled by anyone as none of us is united behind a particular person at the continental level despite our despair at the leadership vacuum across Africa? Have we at all empowered anyone among us to discipline those who defy our set African Union standards?

Now with this sudden surge of interest in who assumes the AUC Chairmanship, why are these interests reflecting themselves in this fierce battle for Africa? Why at this time, and why the AUC Chairmanship in particular? Could this be said to be purely the normal type of disagreement that has traditionally characterised the decision making among the 54 members of the AU Assembly, or is there more to this than that? Could this be a resurrection of the Cold War between the Euro-American interests against the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the continent of Africa?

Now that outside powers are viciously contesting for their interests to be reflected in the AUC Chairmanship, to what extent then is the interest of the ordinary citizens of the 54 AU member states represented on the continent of Africa? Does this election indeed make room for the interest of the ordinary man and woman on the streets of the Africa Union’s 54 member states?

The January election and now, the coming July’s election are now challenging the minds of the ordinary people on the continent of Africa and the world at large, on who runs the Africa Union? These two elections to decide who runs the Union for a period of four years poses lots of questions, and worse still, at a time when the continent is being pressured by the realities around her. This exposes our common consensus on a leadership vacuum as the problem of Africa.

In today’s world the Euro-American interest does not only exist on the continent of Africa but is openly felt by anyone on the continent, regardless of creed or race. The last AUC election – as has been the case all this while with less of our attention being drawn to it – openly exposed the European and American activities to promote who they believe will best sustain their interests in the AU. One even read in the reports from Addis Ababa of the presence of individuals with specific reference to the French taking commands from Nicholas Sarkozy and the EU Commission in Brussels, shuttling among electorates to ensure their favoured candidate gets the Africa highest position. So with 25 AU member states being former French colonies and considering the strong influence of the French on their former colonies, one can only marvel at the outcome in which Jean Ping could not make the simple 36 majority requirement to win the position.

The anomaly in the January election of the AUC Chairmanship indeed affirmed the presence, power and influence of the BRICS on the continental body. It must be recalled that within the same period the Chinese doled out a magnificent present of a $200 million AU Complex to the Union. It is also important to bear in mind that South Africa is a member of BRICS and Nkosazana leading the AUC automatically translates into a citizen of a BRICS member state also being the one in charge of the AUC, and so a better way of advancing the interest of BRICS in Africa. But who blames BRICS for advancing their interest through South Africa and Nkosazana, when no one sees anything wrong with Jean Ping’s tendency to sustain French-EU interest as a citizen of Gabon?

We were all born with the slogan ‘Africa Must Unite’ that gave birth to the formation of the OAU (Organization of the Africa Unity) in 1963. Most of us are also aware of the sole purpose for the formation of the continental body and now the AU (Africa Union), as a united and a stronger front in place of the relatively weaker member states, to advance the best interests of her people. So the consensus prior to 1963 by all the founding fathers is that of a decimated Africa with a sad past that needs a new future for her people behind one person under the banner of a Union. In short, the purpose of the AU is to address the naturally inherent competitive environment that set the AU states against one another to the advantage of external interest.

The best way of expressing the African interest is by the Union’s own vision of ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. The vision of the AU in a simpler term clearly seeks to create an industrialised Africa by her own citizens as the solution to her underdevelopment, insecurity, faming, wars, unemployment and basically an exporter of crude output with little or no value added. In other words the establishment of industries by Africans on the continent of Africa to produce every imaginable machine employable in the provision of security to her people is our common dream. Production of armoured cars, cars, trains, hydro-electric dams, tractors, oil drilling machines for both on shore and off shore exploration, pharmaceuticals, agro-chemicals, aeroplanes, space and sea ships, and nuclear adventures forms the AU dreams. In short, the limitation to the Africa in the AU shall be his/her won imagination.

Great and laudable as our vision is, little did most of us know that our interests are naturally in conflict with the interests of others who are non-Africans and who sustain their own interests at our expense.

The big question then is who should be in charge of the AU common interest if such interest conflicts with that of the African? If this person is the AUC Chairperson, then what is the purpose of the AUC Chairperson if the people of the member states of the Union are not going to be behind him/her to actualize the AU vision? How can the AU member states citizens, 986 million people, stand behind who ever emerges as the AUC Chairperson when barely two months until this election, neither the member states heads nor the citizens of these states know who will be standing to actualize the common vision? How indeed can the great vision of the AU expressed above be achieved for the people of the Union if the people of the Union are not united behind the administrative head of the Union?

The very obvious reality today in the lives of the citizens of all the 54 AU member states and their respective leaders is that of a hopeless people incapable of solving their developmental problems on their own. The lives of the citizens are just as good as they were under the colonial masters, with the leaders still under coercion from colonial influence on how the citizens and their economies are managed. The fact is ‘yes’, there is a change in the guards of who run the colonies, but they still sustain the domineering interest of the colonial masters with the collaboration of US power under the guise of the ‘international community’.

So given that the call for the ‘Unity of Africa’ is an appeal to all of the member states citizens and not just the leaders of these states, common sense then appeals to the mind that the African is being called to unite behind somebody which in this case, is the Chairperson of the AUC to advance the common interest of the African as expressed in the AU vision for Africa.

In advancing the US industrialised interest against the African interest, the president of the 50 states that forms their Union emerged as a person who has sold his/her vision regarding the common interest to the people of all the 50 states for which the individual is then elected. This person then working with the developed European 27 states currently struggling to establish themselves as a single market in advancing their interest on the citizens of the AU through the Chairperson who attains his/her position by the favour of the Euro-Americans. Since the Russians, Brazilians, Chinese and the Indians are also doing this through our South African brothers who are just as vulnerable as any of the 54 AU member states, the call to allow for direct participation of the majority of our people in who emerges as the AUC Chairperson behind who we are expected to unite becomes very important.

What we are all doing in the AU is a journey into the unknown and in this journey, the person to lead us all must not be a questionable and ambiguous character if the journey should not end up in a more complicated manner than is supposed to be. For every one of us to know where we are all going and why we must all go there, democracy demands that every one of us must be part and parcel in their consciousness of who is leading us all there.

This election has given us the opportunity of knowing what is being hidden from the majority of our people who are the vital resources and energy necessary for the actualisation of this journey of 49 years. The sheep are herded without a choice of whoever they follow as their shepherd. On the continent of Africa are human beings, and if they must follow anyone as a united people under the banner of the Africa Union, this Africa Union Day, Friday 25 May 2012, must be used to make it very clear to whoever we deem responsible, that there are more than just 54 people in the AU that must also participate in the AUC Chairmanship election.

Sure Africa Must Unite so that we can advance our collective and continental interest in a more organised way, but how can we achieve this noble task if we do not know behind who are we uniting our common energy? ‘If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed’. A lot of our so called Pan African brothers and sisters enjoy raising their hands in despair saying, ‘The AU has to come down to the people and inform them of their rights in the Union’. Our plight in the AU however, is that of a people that will never be allowed to participate in the AUC Chairmanship election without putting up a fight. We have been denied the right of voting for the AUC Chairperson of our choice as a people to lead us all to the Promised Land. Some writers have even described this as the work of the invisible hands of the external interests. The option therefore for us as the people is to make the AUC Chairmanship election our right.

Kofi Ali Abdul Yekin is the Chair/Coordinator of Action Group of Africa (AGA), Skype as kofialiabdul1

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