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How Independent Are Africans
Akora K.B. Asante

 IN the global village of the world no state is absolutely sovereign and independent. Even the most powerful states surrender parts of their sovereignty through treaties and other undertakings to promote the national interest. And that national interest cannot always be maintained and enhanced by robust independent action, which ignores all other views and protestations.
For the poor and weak states sovereignty and independence are often shams.  Such states have hardly any leverage in the workings of the comity of nations.  In fact, in reality they do what they are told or try to please their benefactors or oppressors. Such states abound in Africa.

Common sense, which is unfortunately not common, suggests that African states should come together to pool their rich human and material resources together to remove the poverty and strife, which weigh them down. As things are in the global village, it is the only way in which they can enhance their sovereignty and independence.  
Kwame Nkrumah, in his book “Africa Must Unite”, gives examples of states which have “come into being at different historical periods, but all aimed at giving greater protection to the uniting states against internal and external disintegrating pressures; and at providing within the union the conditions of viability and security, which would lead to faster economic evolution”.   
Today, those who are not observant or do not understand what they read tell us that because of current conflicts and the like, Africa cannot unite.  They fail to realise that it is partly because of the current instability in African states that Africa must unite.

It is good that civil society is more involved in the current discussion about establishing a United States of Africa. Without the understanding and involvement of the people the union envisaged cannot be firmly established.  But more than common  understanding is necessary.  We need the visionaries and dreamers.
Nkrumah saw the vision of the great united Africa in his mind’s eye before he rationalised his thoughts on paper.  At the African summit which established the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in May 1963, he insisted on the word ‘unity’ in the name of the Organisation.  

In fact he maintained the argument about African unity well beyond the scheduled closing time so that the OAU Treaty was agreed not on May 25 as the records have it but in the early hours of May 26.  Michael Dei Anang was so inspired that he produced an exciting poem, which Nkrumah read to the delight of all.  Even the hunger which I felt because of boring contributions by some leaders disappeared.
Today, another dreamer, President Muammar al-Qathafi, has emerged on the African scene.  President al - Qathafi is impatient with the ineffectiveness of the African Union.  He believes that there is no future for individual African states.  I agree with him.  I respect the views of those who believe that a United States of Africa is a fantasy. But I expect them to argue the case and not to attack the character of those who believe otherwise.

Unfortunately, many Africans are influenced by the Western press.  They are suspicious of anything Qathafi does or supports. But poverty in Africa would be much reduced if African leaders followed his example. He is not known to have stolen state funds, which he has sent to Italy or Switzerland.  He uses the money from oil to bring water to the desert and to educate his people.  He may be a harsh ruler and not a democrat. But who deceived you that democracy by itself banishes corruption and promotes development and the creation of wealth?
Already, there are many pundits who maintain that certain requirements should be met before Africans can come together.  We should disabuse our minds of these self-imposed stumbling blocks.  African unity can begin today if African States reduce tariffs among themselves and remove them all together within say 10 years.  
Some provisions of the Lagos Plan of Action in the economic field may be adopted by those willing to do so who then form a fast-track group.  If this group is successful, others will follow. The European Union is an example. Other European states are joining because the union is successful.

With regard to a political union, the Heads of State and Government meeting in Accra may agree to form the United States of Africa and, towards this end, take certain measures to further this aim. Such measures may include free movement of goods and persons across borders. The treaty may become operational even if a small number, say 10 states, ratify it.  Naturally, those who do not ratify it cannot be compelled to conform to the provisions of the treaty. They can ratify and join at a later date.

The small number required for ratification will enable the provisions to be operational early. It is better that a few states implement the provision of the treaty.    Their success will encourage others to join. It is unrealistic to expect all the  members of the African Union to agree to join the United States of Africa when the Heads of State meet in Accra. But those who are reluctant should not be frightened by rigid provisions. The treaty should show the way and allow specific provisions to be agreed upon in time.

The institutions of the organisation may be confirmed but its provisions should not be rigid. Some may even be left to be visited later. The blunt truth is that the African Union has not much money. It is as poor as its constituent states.  Expensive institutions may ruin the union. Some may even be agreed upon but established later. A matter which should be agreed upon in detail is the selection and rule of engagement of officials of the institutions. There is no problem with judges, parliamentarians and the like. But the officials who will make proposals to the ministers should be carefully selected.  Competence and fair geographical distribution should guide selection.

When the officials are selected, they should be given the freedom to work. Many African politicians are reluctant to give their officials the necessary freedom to implement even agreed decisions. They like to be involved in every stage of implementation of agreed decisions.  Officials of the United States of Africa should function like those of the European Union if the organisation is to be effective.
The meeting in Accra this July should deal with real issues. What is agreed upon should indicate whether the union is to be achieved in stages. What we in Africa are used to is a long argument about the merits or otherwise of this approach and the other.  Such arguments are unnecessary. We cannot tomorrow or next week create a useful United States of Africa.  

Once we agree that a union is necessary, we should adopt practical steps to achieve it, taking into account our character and the example of other nations.  Already some are shouting the warning that black Africa will be dominated by Arabs or vice versa.  We should not be side-tracked by the Neanderthal  men and women in our midst. If we can work with others in international organisations to achieve agreed objectives, we can work with Africans to create wealth and give confidence and self-respect to our people.

The United States of Africa is not only about economics and politics.  It is a means of establishing the African personality. Those who face the truth know that as beggars who often engage in unnecessary conflicts, we have not much respect in the comity of nations.  Our proud and self-confident distinguished Heads of State  know this.  They should not leave Accra without taking the first steps to show that the African is also somebody. Only Africans united in a common endeavour can rid the continent of unnecessary poverty and disease and regain their self-respect.

News Source : www.graphic.com.gh/ Vioce From Afar
Last updated at : 16 October,2012
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