This week we repeat the column that was published in the January 19, 2007 edition following the developments at the just ended African Union summit in Ghana. We have highlighted some of the statements made by outgoing SADC chairman and Lesotho Prime Minister Phakalita Mosisili and President Mwanawasa just before and during the summit.
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Last week I read a story about the launch of a debate on an ideal African government in the electronic version of the Zambia Daily Mail. The question, however, is, is the African continent ready for a United States of Africa, or even a European Union-type system?
First and foremost, the turbulent history as well as current political situation on the continent in which most African countries are embroiled in internal power struggles, civil wars as well as economic instability and the concomitant poverty that its peoples face all militate against an all embracing, all acceptable government under a US of Africa, or indeed, an EU type of system.
The patriotism of the founding fathers of the American system that brought together the North and the South, albeit in a civil war, lacks among past, current and, for the foreseeable, future leaders of the African continent, itself an underdog in the international political and economic system dominated by the more stable and organised west.
Bringing together the 53 African countries, most of which are politically disorganised, undemocratic and impoverished to form a unitary state would be a complex task that would require a lot of diplomatic effort, time and resources, not to mention the acceptability of whoever emerges as president at any given time. Even now, it is very difficult for citizens of African countries to fully accept results of elections in their own countries, let alone the whole continent, if that were to happen.
There is also the issue of addressing failed states such as Somalia which has had no central government for over 15 years now and also dealing with the issue of corruption which is a sine-qua-non for entry into the EU for those European countries seeking entry into the community of European nations. But, as it is, most of the African countries are high on the Transparency International corruption index unless it is an issue that our leaders can sweep under the carpet.
Poor communications in most African countries would also wreak havoc on the continent in terms of knowing what is happening in one corner of the resultant mega-nation and even getting to one part of such a nation to another. At present, for example, it is impossible to get from say, Kinshasa, in the north-west, to Lubumbashi in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo by road. Imagine the task of getting from Mozambique to Cameroon!
One does not need to go far to think of tribalism that characterises the local political systems to imagine what would happen when the 53 countries come together multiplied by the tribes in those countries. Cultural and religious, and to a certain extent, the racist differences such as those that are being played out in the Darfur region of Sudan, simply work against a successful US of A.
Even a system like the EU that has, as at January 1, 2007, 27 member states, would be an impossible feat considering the fragmented political systems of the different countries on the continent where democracy at all levels needs to be inculcated in the minds of all the continent’s citizens.
In the EU, the strong economies of most of the members easily carry along the few poorer nations whereas in Africa, the burden would certainly fall on the fewer economically strong members to carry along the poorer majority.
At the moment, the regional groupings such as COMESA and ECOWAS which are supposed to be building blocs for an African Union are, to say the least, structurally and functionally weak and need to be strengthened such that when the time comes, if it ever does, for the envisaged AU, the pieces will just fall nicely into place. The current AU, like its forerunner, the Organisation of African Unity, is just little more than a playground for the big boys (and girl) of Africa where they just meet to party.
The Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development has also not worked very well in that the continent’s leaders shy away from criticising each other when things are going wrong in another country such that recalcitrant leaders continue oppressing their citizens. That, certainly, is not a good recipe for a truly citizen driven African Union or, indeed, a United States of Africa.—firstname.lastname@example.org.