Magazine article New African

Africa: The Union Takes Shape

Magazine article New African

Africa: The Union Takes Shape

Article excerpt

Gradually, the African Union is taking shape, a year on from the launch in Durban. But there is still plenty of unfinished business as the leaders meet at the Second Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, from 4 to 14 July. Implementation will be the theme. The final objective is for Africans to take charge of their destiny and become masters of their household.

This time, there is no doubt that the will is there, given added impetus by recent world events that have given credence to the viewpoint that nothing has changed much since Neanderthal man. It is still a predators' world, and a disunited Africa will only have itself to blame. Divided we fall. Since the historic launch of the Union in Durban last July, there has been renewed commitment. Progress made is the adoption of the four key organs: The Assembly of heads of states, the Executive Council of foreign ministers, the Permanent Representative Committee of ambassadors accredited to Addis Ababa, and the Commission (secretariat).

These are the foundation stones. Fast track has been the buzzword. Issues arising from the Durban Summit which called for an amendment of the Constitutive Act--the AU'S foundation document -- have been tackled in an Extraordinary Session in Ethiopia in early February.

The key issue was the proposal by the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi, to amend the Constitutive Act so that the continent could be one big country with one army and centralised institutions of government, effectively a United States of Africa. But his proposal was rejected at a ministerial meeting prior to the Extraordinary Session in Addis Ababa and given cold shoulder at the Session proper.

The feeling is that a United Stares of Africa is premature and will require a periodic review. Originally Kwame Nkrumah's idea 40 years ago, it was thought premature then. Not even the United Stares of America's recent behaviour has moved the present leaders to make haste.

Out of the outstanding 13 of the 17 organs that need to be put in place, top of the agenda will be the adoption of protocols for the establishment of a Pan-African Parliament, a Court of Justice, an African Bank and Monetary Fund, and most urgently a peace and security council (see story on p12).

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) which will boast an African peacekeeping force, is essential to stabilise the continent and stamp out new fires. It is a prerequisite for development. Hitherto one has seen disparate military intervention of various forces from Africa and abroad in the affairs of African nations in conflict. The end result has been mixed. This undesirable situation will see a unified approach to conflict resolution either via diplomacy or where necessary an African military intervention.

The PSC will have five semi-permanent structures, one from each of the continent's five regions, with 10 elected members who will serve a two-year term. But inherent in this Council should be the means to rally to our common defence against predators. Africa's has been a sorry tale of an inability to defend our own. Our spears, bows and arrows have been child's play against the Maxim Gun. Our imported conventional weapons are obsolete, nothing against the threat of nuclear power, whose raw material is taken from Africa.

In March, Dr Nkosazana Zuma, the influential South African foreign minister, addressed the first African experts meeting on the establishment of a common defence and security policy in Johannesburg. She acknowledged Kwame Nkrumah's idea that called for Africa to adopt a common defence and security. "It was then dismissed as too grandiose," she told the delegates. "We were all hoping the post-Cold War era would usher a better world for all. We all know it hasn't."

In the face of narrow Western interest, an international rule of law and security is but a mirage. Where is Africa's common interest? Perhaps Kwame Nkrumah should be compulsory reading in all African schools. …

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