Thursday, August 2, 2007
Is Africa going forward?
By: RAYMOND TUVI
KING Ayisoba, The Award-Winning Traditional Singer currently making waves on the local music scene, might be considering revising the hope-inspiring words of an upbeat tune of his if he had followed discerningly the proceedings of the 9th Ordinary Assembly or the AU recently held in Accra.
I tell Africa;
Let’s be together
It would help Africa
Africa would not fall aback.
Africa dey go forward,
Forward, forward –
Africa dey go forward …
This is what the kolga musician declaimed in his raspy voice the days preceding the commencement of the much-publicized summit of 52 Heads of State and government of the continent and other dignitaries who swooped into the Ghanaian capital in the declining days of June.
They came, they talked and they scattered. Opinions were then on a new Ghana cedi. And they are still rife, in the aftermath; the postmortem akin to the dissonant voices of disappointed spectators of a losing football team each making his case.
In his case, instead of staining his voice in a cacophonous uproar against the AU outcome, King Ayisoba might go for the jugular with the spirit and lyrics of another piece of his, the household hit, I Want to See You, My Father!
In our part of the world where it is in order to call someone’s attention to a personal grievance held against him in a formal down sitting, it’s still unheard of for a child to ask to see his father over a perceived dereliction of duty. And herein lies the satirical appeal of the Ghana Music Award-winning song.
Unlike the Protagonist in Ayisoba’s pidgin English song who is at pain to call his father to order over spending lavishly on his “girlfriend” to his own neglect, Africans might want to see their “fathers” over another issue, but still one of seeming neglect of charges.
African leaders are rightly the fathers of their people, the current crop having taken over from the original founders of the OAU, now the AU.
Four decades after there first was a meeting of its kind, it was no little coincidence that in the 50th year of independence of the first black African country to gain emancipation from colonial rule, heads of State of the African continent converged there again for a historic African Union summit. The 9th Ordinary Assembly of the AU had the notion of a continental union government for Africa as its sole agenda.
It was a golden opportunity to take concrete steps to realize the dream of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the champion and leading exponent of the total liberation and political unification of the people of the African continent, in the Golden Jubilee year of the country whose founder and first president he was. But this was not achieved.
Total success in the African emancipation enterprise is attainable on three fronts – the political, the socio-economic and the spiritual.
That which Ghana’s independence was meaningless unless it was linked up with – continental political emancipation, as Independence on 1994, with the liberation of South Africa from minority apartheid rule.
The second dimension which Nkrumah again saw as following directly on the heels of the former is what was bound up in the new stage of oppression, which he called neo-colonialism. And this dimension – the realization of the socio-economic emancipation of the continent – is what has bogged the most intense efforts to develop Africa over the past four decades.
Before the OAU was founded in the early 1960s, Nkrumah and some of the other avant-garde leaders of the continent realized starkly that with a common cultural and political heritage still so balkanized and fragmented, Africans as a people emerging from the shackles of colonial rule stood little chance of socio-economic stability and progress in a world dominated by the hegemonic agenda of their colonial masters.
With a united front in economic, defence and foreign policy, however, Africa could confront the oppressors’ onslaught with common resolve.
But the perennial bugbear of self-interest even then reared its head among many of the newfangled leaders: They were loath to cede their hard-earned sovereignty for the common goal. They thus settled for the watered down compromise process of the OAU in May 1963. Some of those leaders later confessed their inordinate fear of Nkrumah’s grand design, which has come up again for review decades later.
Some opinions, however, have it that we don’t seek a continental union government for its own sake. Their proponents argue that we could achieve the socio-economic development – the freedom from want, war and disease – that individual African nations desire, without necessarily pursuing that objective through a political unification of the continent.
Others also hold the view that the entire African Union campaign is a Libyan leader Muama-al-Quatthafi-led move to annex sub-Saharan Africa. While not expressly validating these opinions, it is worthwhile to allow a ventilation of all hopes and fears; confronting perceived fears allows for appreciating what is attainable.
But at the Accra deliberations, history seems to have repeated itself, this time only in a change of name. In the 1960’s, there were two groups divided on the pace of the African unification process – the radicals and the moderates. Rallied round Nkrumah’s position, those seeking immediate continental African unity were the radical Casablanca Group: They comprised many of the Arab North Africa countries. The moderates were grouped around Nigeria’s Tafewa Balewa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and William Tubman of Liberia: They were the Monrovia Group.
The radical agenda is a similar situation today with Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Mali, whose former president and current AU Commission Chairman, Dr, Alpha Omar Konare, amongst others, is a most vociferous advocate of the immediate realization of the Union agenda.
The moderates, who wanted a slower pace of continental integration, have metamorphosed in nomenclature into the Gradualist Approach group today. Th9is group again includes the African colossus, Nigeria and an old giant with a newly laundered image on the African political and economic scene, South Africa.
Besides the uncharacteristically radical view Liberia in her leader and Africa’s only female Head of State, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who said, “Liberia endorses in principle the spirit of African unity as expressed in the proposed establishment of the United States of Africa”, it looks like the moderates-turned-gradualists – now led by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa – won again in Accra.
There was not a conclusive verdict on the formation of an African Union government in the foreseeable future at the Accra summit. And in an unrelated but ironic development, President Mbeki was honoured in Ghana with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Cape Coast. That university was founded by Kwame Nkrumah a year before the inauguration of the OAU as a linchpin of the socio-economic development of Ghana and Africa.
Nkrumah and Mandela were not known to have been the best of collaborators in the campaign against apartheid. Madiba’s position on the current African unification talks is not explicit. But, though retired from active public on this continental question of import is unnervingly loud. Hence, it’s the apprehension of many that South Africa is speaking for the characteristically outspoken statesman.
As the discussions rage and the arguments come up, it is hope of every African that we make progress. The argument of many an ordinary African is, however, that we consolidate African unity by first uniting the African peoples before taking on any far-flung geo-political considerations. We ought to open up the continent with first class roads, railways and other communication and infrastructural facilities.
Immigration, trade and tariff regimes would be expeditiously harmonized to see to the free movement of goods and people across the continent.
It is when the South African can moves from Cape Town to Cairo, and the Somalian can travels across the continent from Mogadishu to Banjul without unnecessary let or hindrance that we can see a breakdown of barriers towards a meaningful unification of the African continent.
In this vein, the ordinary Ivorian African would wish to see his country reunited. The people of Darfur would want to have their peace and territorial integrity respected. The Nigerian African wants to be able to journey across Yorubaland through Benin. Togo and into Ghana to visit his Kinsman in Ghana’s port city of Takoradi without being harassed at countless checkpoints and manhandles by some border officials.
To also be vested with powers to enact cross-border legislations, the Pan-African Parliament must be made an elective institution that should be a strong unifying force.
The African of the 21st century cannot continue to remain a byword for ignorance, poverty, disease, corruption, squalor and war. To that inglorious perception of Africa, the rising Ghanaian music star billed to break onto the continental scene soon, King Ayisoba, would say, “Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai! Kai”! – a popular refrain of his that pluralizes a Ghana expression for anathema.
Redeeming the image of the African content in this direction constitutes the challenge for AU Chairman, President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana, and his colleagues after the Accra Assembly. It is only when this path is taken that the third dimension of African people, would be attained.
Daily Graphic - Thursday, August 2, 2007 Page: 33