Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
On African unity
By: W. Ofuatey-Kodjoe
BOUT a month ago, I wrote a short piece on African Unity in the Daily Graphic. The purpose of the piece was to eradicate some popular misconceptions about African unity. There is a perception that AU and its predecessor are the same as having African unity.
Following this, there is a conception that since we already have African unity, all we have to do is to make it more effective by infusing it with a number of institutions such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and NEPAD. In that piece, I argued that these statements are categorically and definitely untrue. The AU is not African unity.
Rather, it is an international organization designed to resolve conflicts and facilitate co-operation among comity of nations. As an international organization, it is based on the principle of sovereignty of each member state and the non-interference by one member in the affairs of another.
We have been seen attempts to change it, by twisting it and adjusting it, culminating in the AU, without changing its basic nature. Without that the organization may be useful in some minor ways, but it is certainly not African unity. It was not designed with the capacity to create one state from the disparate states of Africa. It was never meant to lead to African unity.
I then invited you to consider what has and will continue to happen to Africa under the AU regime, and also concluded that with the AU, Africans are truly the powerless paupers of the periphery of the international system, reduced to begging for everything, including our daily bread. We have the most incidents of political instability, the most incidents of military catastrophes.
We have the most incidents of poverty, disease and degradation and our cultures are the least respected in the world. In short, we are at the bottom of a system of global apartheid. Furthermore, our prospects of changing this situation is practically nil.
In this follow-up piece, I would like to explore the positive reasons why I consider a federation of African states a vital necessity for Africa. What will be the benefits of such federation for ordinary African people? The need for a federal unification of Africa is based on the ideology of Pan-Africanism. Therefore, in order to fully appreciate the meaning of the type of federal union advocated by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and his fellow Pan-Africanists, we must examine the ideology of Pan-Africanism and why it calls for a federal union of Africa.
Pan-Africanism is an ideology, and as such, it has three components-a worldview, an idea of what it wishes to create and a strategy or set of strategies designed to achieve its wish-idea or objective. Viewed in this light, Pan-Africanism has a worldview that all people of African descent are one people. It has a wish-idea which is committed to the empowerment of this people and it has a number of strategies which are considered essential for the achievement of the wish-idea.
The strategy of creating a federal union of African states is one of these strategies. The other strategies are total liberation of Africa and the reconstruction of liberated territories on the basis of socialist democracy. In order to achieve a full understanding of these strategies, we must investigate the relationship of the ideology of Pan-Africanism and its strategies.
The worldview of Pan-Africanist ideology is based on the belief that All African people are one people, based on the fact that we have a common identity, a common historical experience and a common destiny. In addition to this worldview, Pan-Africanists are passionately aware of the condition of this people in the world, and are deeply committed to the enhancement of the power and prestige of this people, using the strategies of independence, socialist reconstruction and federal unity.
The African People
What is the common nationality of African people made of? The African nationality is based on a shared cultural identity, a shared historical experience and, most important, a shared future destiny. A common identity: Pan-Africanism postulates that there is a cultural identity which unites all African people, in spite of local conditions which have given local communities their peculiar flavours. It states further that this cultural identity transcends these local differences and that it has significance for the history of African people.
This cultural identity is represented by a complex of civilized cultural, economic, social and political values which characterize the negro-African world. This is what is meant by the African personality which is defined by Professor Willie Abraham as “that complex of ideas and attitude which is both identical and significant in otherwise different African culture”.
A common experience: As Pan-Africanists see it, wherever the African has been whether in American, France or Saudi Arabia, his experience has been virtually the same exploitation, persecution, discrimination and spiritual violence suffered at the hands of non-Africans and justified on the basis of an elaborate set of false ideological arguments which alleged the sub-humanity, savagery and moral infirmity of African people. Thus, Africans share a common history of degradation and deprivation.
A common destiny: For the Pan-Africanists, the idea of a common fate or common destiny for all African peoples is simply a matter of projecting into the future what has happened in the past. If in the past, Africans experienced discrimination, humiliation and oppression because of their African origins, then can expect the same treatment in the future. What this means is that the destiny of Africans is indivisible. That we all stand and fall together. The most accomplished of our people are treated with contempt because he/she is an African.
The Pan-Africanists Commitment: From the perspective of a common fate, it makes absolute sense to be committed to Pan-Africanism, that is, if we wish to be respected individually, then we must insist that all of us are respected. If so, then we must be committed to the enhancement of the power and prestige of all Africans.
That is the only way by which we can guarantee our own dignity. The purpose of the ideology of Pan-Africanism, therefore, is to achieve empowerment for all African people.
Pan-Africanists have settled on a number of strategies to pursue their objectives. These include total liberation of all African territories, the socialist reconstruction of African society and the unification of all African-liberated territories. In this analysis, I will concentrate on the relationship of Pan-Africanism, and these strategies, especially the strategy of African unity. In 1945, when the Fifth Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester, one of the realities that the participants faced was the fact that African people were scattered within the empires of different colonial powers.
The decision was made that the way forward to African empowerment would be to adopt the strategies of total liberation of All African territories, to be followed by the reconstruction of liberated territory along the lines of democratic socialism and the eventual unification of all these territories into one state. In the words of George Padmore, “The revolution taking place in African is three-fold".
First, there is the struggle for national independence. Second is the social revolution which follows the achievement of independence and self-determination. And the third is that Africans are seeking some form of regional unity as a forerunner of the United Stated of Africa. However, until the first is achieved, the energies of the people cannot be mobilized for the attainment of the second and the third stages which are even more difficult than the first”.
The strategy of total liberation was evident when Nkrumah made his famous pronouncement that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless, unless it is linked up with the total liberation and unification of African”. He was pointing to the continuing nature of the straggle of Africans for freedom and equality, which Padmore wrote about. The total liberation of Africa had to come first. First, it would be impossible to attempt to unify the colonial territories while they were still under colonial rule.
Furthermore, the liberation of Africa had come before unity. As the argument runs, the European justification for the oppression of Africans is that all Africans (not Kenyans, Yorubas or West Africans, but all Africans) are inferior. This being the case, the problem of the African could not be solved by the fact that one African territory had become independent. Only the collective independence of all African territory would be an adequate response to the racist ideology that underpins colonialism.
The Pan-Africanist justification for national liberation was that natural liberation (as opposed to assimilation into European culture) was a repudiation of the ideology of the superiority of white culture which had been used to justify colonial domination.
Indeed the only legitimate justification for national liberation has to be the retrieval of our culture from foreign domination so that “the Africans themselves (can) order and perfect their own lives”. As Fanon has noted, “if we want to turn Africa into a new Europe”, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better than the most gifted of us”.
Furthermore, if we are to avoid the distortion of our independence into a mere continuation and aping of the colonial institutions, then we must reconstruct our societies on the basis of the positive principles and values of the cultures of the African people.
This is the African personality, Pan-Africanism and African Unity. A federal unity of African people was conceived in Pan-Africanism as a political strategy for achieving the empowerment of the African people. According to Pan-Africanist thought, this unity would accomplish three goals.
First, it would empower Africans by consolidating the new-found independence of African territories and combat neo-colonialism and the new scramble for Africa. For the Pan-Africanist, therefore, the establishment of a federal state is a matter of survival. The security and survival of each African country is linked to the security of all other African countries. As Dr. Nkrumah put it, “Africa must unite or perish”.
A second reason for a federation of African states would be to create one state which would represent, speak on behalf of, and articulate the collective will of the African people with a single voice. The third reasons is that such a state would have enough power to be a major factor in the world so as to advance the interests of the African people. The purpose of the Federation of African Stated as proposed by Pan-Africanists would be to consolidate the power of Africans and strengthen the struggle against neo-colonialism.
IN contrast, the kind of union advocated by most of the African leaders was designed to maintain the neo-colonialist status quo.
At the inception of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Sam Ikoku predicted that, “The OAU, as it is presently constituted, will never allow us to achieve African political union. And because it cannot evolve in this direction, it will degenerate into an organism for protecting the existing regimes in various African countries”.
The potential benefits of a Federation of African States are readily apparent. They relate first and foremost to increasing the power of the African state in its dealings with other states in the international system.
However, they are also related to the ordering of political life within Africa, particularly as regards good governance and human rights. If we are one people with a common fate, then we must have one representation and one voice. So that when China invited us to discuss some important world issues, we would be able to accept the invitation as one government, not as a collection of Africans who are divided between those who say what France wants them to say, and those who say what the US wants them to say.
This way, we can give to our collective concerns in the global arena – and do this with greater cohesion, confidence and impact. Within the continent, a Federation of African Stated (FAS) will give us the opportunity to build and co-ordinate our capacities, so that we can face the world with one free, united, powerful an inward-looking African. That is what Nkrumah meant by “in unity there is strength”.
As a continent with one government, we will not only speak with one voice, but will also be able to speak with power. There will be no need for some of us to go as observers to G8 meetings, while the rest of us are considered inconsequential or forgotten entirely. With increasing capacity, we will be able to make continent-wide decisions on the municipality of challenges that we face.
Policy on issues such as education, health, labour, employment and foreign policy will be discussed and debated on a national basis, so that the policy outcomes will reflect a wide variety of opinions and the views of the ordinary Africans. Perhaps most important, the formation of a Federation of African States has implications for good governance and effective leadership in Africa.
It is only through the establishment of a Federation of African States that we can develop, maintain and monitor the performance of local governments in the areas of human rights, governmental succession and popular participation of ordinary people in the affairs of the State. One crucial issue on which the Federation of African States stands to improve the lives of Africans in the co-ordination and development of a coherent, rational energy and resource management regime.
Common industrial and communications policies will help to avoid wasteful duplication of resources and the deployment and management of infrastructure. Another issue in need of a continent-wide approach is the issue of a common currency which will enable a higher rationalization of commercial transactions, and avoid manipulations of foreign financial markets.
The economic benefits of a Federation of African States are even more obvious. First, such a government will have the power to correct the global structural imbalances which have effectively mired millions of Africans in poverty. Some of the injustices that we need t correct include the unfair terms of trade suffered by Africans, the catastrophic decline of commodity prices so that we can get value for our resources, the protectionism of the Western countries that spend over $300 billion on subsidies for their farmer and their high tariffs on African exports.
Also, a Federation of African States will be better able to encourage the free movement of labour, goods and services, and thus reduce the cost of Intra-African commerce.
Most important, we will be able to eliminate the competitive begging for foreign aid, which, in any case, has distorted development in our countries as presently constituted. We will not have to worry about embarrassing the HIPC funds, NEPAD or some false G8-Africa “partnership”.
A Federation of African States will also give some security benefits on the continent. Since the imposition of colonial rule in Africa, our security has been in the hands of outside powers. This must stop. But it cannot stop until we have one government for the security of our country. Such a government will have the capacity and the political will to develop an African force to replace all the foreign forces in Africa.
We certainly will not need a French Rapid Reaction Force or the proposed American African Command. The government will adopt a policy on conflict in Africa and take primary responsibility for the resolution of African conflicts and the enforcement of peace.
We will be able to neutralize the present situation in which outside powers can maintain bases from which they can control us and pick us off one by one, if we do not obey their wishes. The examples of India and China easily demonstrate the real relationship between their power and self-reliant security policies.
Benefits to the African people
The benefits that I have outlined above are not only relevant to the African States; they are benefits which will be enjoyed by ordinary Africans. For instance, a Pan-African Parliament will enhance the opportunities for ordinary Africans to participate in the government.
It will also provide a focus for a peaceful conflict resolution and, above all, it will enhance the ability of the people to press for such issues as human rights and the rights of women and children. For workers, one government will provide them with freedom of movement as they move about looking for employment, and this will increase their capacity to organize effectively for better conditions of work.
For investors and producers, the prospect of larger markets and improved credit terms should be a source of joy. Farmers will be able to get better terms of trade and freer access to outside markets, as well as a larger African market.
The establishment of Federation of African States will undoubtedly be an extremely difficult task. There are many technical, financial, institutional, leadership and political problems. First, change is always uncomfortable, because it is risky. But it is clear that this change with all its ambiguities, will be better than what we have now.
Clearly, a Federation of African States is not a panacea. Many people have pointed to the difficulties associated with running a large country with diverse sections, ethnicities at different level of development and urbanization. But this needs not deter us.
If we look at states like the USA, China or India, we see that they have their internal problems. But no one has argued that they should dismember their countries. A united Africa will not solve all our problems. However, it will provide us with a context in which we can multiply our chances of solving our problems more successfully.
One important point is that the process of establishing this one government in which the participation of civil society groups and ordinary people are anticipated will lead to the development of a political contract between African leaders and people, which will encourage the participation of ordinary people, and facilitate good governance and democracy.
The biggest obstacle to the creation of a Federation of African States is the attitude of most of the African leaders. These leaders see that their immediate interests are at stake, and furthermore, they feel a sense of commitment to their European “mother countries”.
The biggest obstacle to the creation of a Federation of African
States is the attitude of most of the African leaders.
These leaders see that their immediate interests are at stake,
And furthermore, they feel a sense of commitment to their European “mother countries”.
In spite of all these difficulties, we must attempt to establish the Federation of African States. To put the question in terms of the readiness of Africa for a federation government is absurd. To be sure, African governments have not always honoured their commitments. But this is true of all countries.
With all our blemishes and imperfections, it is not right to suggest that in order to have a federal government, African countries should be near perfect. When will Africa be ready? What kind of examination should Africa pass to be considered ready, and who should administer such an examination. We have been chosen by history to take this bold step.
The courage and vision of our past leaders – Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Nyerere and a host of others – command us. When we succeed, we will have the gratitude of generations of Africans to come. However, if we stumble, we will be surprised to find out that what we will have be infinitely better than what we have now. We simply cannot continue to tolerate being the footstool of all the other people in the world. The way to climb out of this degrading position is to form the Federation of African States!
The Daily Graphic - Tuesday, July 3, 2007 Page: 7 & 9
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 Page: 9