Africa Adopts New Self-Help Plan ; Thursday, the Pan-African Parliament Will Be Inaugurated in Ethiopia

By Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Africa Adopts New Self-Help Plan ; Thursday, the Pan-African Parliament Will Be Inaugurated in Ethiopia


Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Africa, it seems, is mustering new resolve to tackle its problems.

After decades of being mostly unwilling or unable to deal with widespread poverty, corruption, conflict, and disease, there's growing political will behind several efforts to address these troubles - with or without outside help.

Thursday, for instance, in Ethiopia, delegates from 45 nations will inaugurate the Pan-African Parliament, a first-of-its-kind body that will eventually make continent-wide laws.

Earlier this year, African leaders also agreed to create a continental military force to help stamp out wars. It will take orders from a new Peace and Security Council, which will have the power to intervene in any African conflict.

Also on the horizon is a human-rights court. Its judgments will be legally binding, though only on nations that give it jurisdiction. So far 15 have done so.

And this month, Ghana became the first of 18 countries to undergo "peer review," whereby nations open their finances, policies, and programs to scrutiny by fellow Africans.

Efforts to combat poverty through European-like economic unions continue. This month's rebirth of the East African Community will meld Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda into an open market of 94 million people.

All the moves represent a growing understanding that, "If [we] Africans don't help ourselves, nobody else will come to our salvation," says Lula Gebreyesus, head of the Africa Institute for Policy Analysis and Economic Integration in Cape Town, South Africa. "We've been begging and begging, but nobody has really helped us."

Many have tried. Rich nations have sent untold billions to Africa. But without concerted efforts by Africans, those efforts have failed, she says. Just as "God helps us when we help ourselves," she says, Africans are realizing they have a big role in their own salvation.

There's a long, tattered history of efforts to integrate Africa under Pan-African or other banners - and thus plenty of reason for skepticism about the latest ones. But the new round appears to be less ideological and more pragmatic. It's driven, observers say, by the growing understanding that in a world dominated by the European Union, NAFTA, and other regional groupings, Africa's countries will largely prosper - or collapse - together. "The emerging consensus in African politics is that everybody is affected by everyone else," says Francis Kornegay, an Africa scholar at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Already, he says, it's clear the African Union - the umbrella organization that includes the Pan-African Parliament, the Peace and Security Council, and the African Court on Human and People's Rights - is "radically different from its predecessor," the Organization of African Unity. …

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