OAU - Will Salim Succeed Salim?: 25th May Is Africa Day but Who Will Become the Next OAU Secretary General? Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, the Initiator of Black History Month in Britain, Looks into His Crystal Ball. (Africa Day)

By Addal-Sebo, Akyaaba | New African, May 2001 | Go to article overview

OAU - Will Salim Succeed Salim?: 25th May Is Africa Day but Who Will Become the Next OAU Secretary General? Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, the Initiator of Black History Month in Britain, Looks into His Crystal Ball. (Africa Day)


Addal-Sebo, Akyaaba, New African


That the office and power of the OAU Secretary-General (SG) has not caught the imagination of the African people, for all these years, goes without saying. Under the current SG, the Tanzanian, Salim Ahmed Salim (whose unprecedented third term should he ending soon), the OAU has played second fiddle to the UN using the lack of resources as an excuse to let the Western powers have their way in Africa via the UN.

Western cultural and political values have been allowed to penetrate Africa to the extent of dictating the pace and content of "governance, democratisation and economic development". Today, foreign NGOs and UN agencies have become the shadow governments in Africa with more impact on the daily lives of the people than the OAU could ever dream of. In some countries, the foreign NGOs and their local counterparts have become the effective opposition.

The challenge facing a new OAU secretary-general is therefore huge, and his/her selection should be (and rightly so, at least to New African readers in the past several months) the concern of Africans both at home and abroad.

The challenge facing Africa and the Diaspora now is "total political and economic unification of the continent under a union government". The choice of the next SG should, therefore, be designed to be a means to an end -- that end being the unification of Africa.

This calls for a clear and fresh mandate to define and direct the job of the SG. A clear vision to inform the mission of the SG is therefore the challenge and it falls on ordinary Africans, both at home and abroad (and the Diaspora), to help define the vision, the mandate and evaluation tools.

The SG will have to be strengthened by a team of under-secretary-generals, particularly for sub-regional and regional integration and also for Diaspora affairs. A dynamic department, building on the experiences of the liberation committee, to direct the whole unification project is a necessity.

The African Diaspora has to be integrated in the unification project to give meaning, drive and pregnancy to the pan-African ideals and foundation of African unity. When the African parliament is finally inaugurated, a special dispensation should be made to enable the Diaspora to be fully represented.

The candidates?

So, who is going to succeed Salim Salim? Or is Salim Salim going to succeed himself yet again?

There is the growing possibility that Salim will succeed himself for a further two years in order to prepare the ground for the president of Mali, Alpha Konare, to finish his presidential term and then take over as the new SG. Salim, with the UN top post out of his reach and likewise the presidency of Tanzania, is not keen to step down as he appears to favour the lobby promoting President Konare.

This lobby argues that the status of the SG has to be lifted so that he/she commands global attention and respect. The lobby believes strongly that respected former heads of state will bring more respect and international acceptance to the position.

Since the days of the legendary Diallo Telli of Guinea, the lobby argues, the OAU has suffered from the lack of a charismatic SG. Telli is still revered as the SG who made the African unity project the concern of ordinary Africans. He was unwavering in his Pan-African loyalties and did nor compromise Pan-African interest in his dealings with the powers of that period.

According to sources, the lobby is led by the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and counts Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and Liberia's Charles Taylor as keen supporters. Critics, however, see the lobby as a confidential ploy to create a job for retired presidents. But the lobby argues that its self-interest is measured by its concerns for what is good for Africa and an SG who will not be treated like an "errand boy" by virtue of the fact that "he" used to be one of them. The lobby also sees the wisdom in Salim continuing in office for two more years to prepare the way for President Konare. …

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