Time for Africa to stand up and be counted

LAST Thursday was 25 May, and our beloved continent commemorated  Africa Day, a day set aside to mark the formation of the then Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU), now the African Union, which was formed more than half a century ago to spearhead African unity and the fight against the evils of colonialism and imperialism.

On May 25 1963, 31 African leaders convened a summit in Addis Ababa to found the OAU, the precursor to the African Union. They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25. The founding date of the OAU is also referred to as Africa Day.  The OAU was replaced by the African Union (AU), a continental union consisting of all 55 countries on the African continent, on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.

The purpose of Africa Day is to annually mark the progress and symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.

African Day has helped to raise political awareness in African communities across the world.  It has also been a source of information about the struggles for liberation and development.

But this year, 54 years down the line, Africa must take stock of what it has achieved and at the same time gird its loins to confront the challenges ahead. Yes, the continent is free politically but conflicts in the Saharawi, where a fellow African country, Morocco, is still occupying another African country depriving citizens of their civil liberties, internal strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan, and Somalia are a blot on the African conscience and call for more concerted efforts to resolve them.

The situation in the DRC threatens to re-degenerate into full scale war, and as we report elsewhere in this issue, refugees fleeing the conflict in that country are flocking to Angola.  No sooner had the continent celebrated the birth of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, than a civil war broke out in that country and all efforts to bring the belligerents to peace appear to have stalled.

In Somali, the situation is far from over and despite the presence of AU peacekeepers there, conflict continues in this strife-torn country unabated.

Internal conflict has torn Libya apart, and today it is a shadow of the mighty country of Muammar Gaddafi who, having brought his people together under the Jamahiriya ideology, died pursuing the dream of uniting the continent under the United States of Africa.  A closer look at most of these conflicts will reveal a hidden hand and Africa’s leaders need to get their act together and resolve these conflicts.

It boggles the mind why leaders on the continent continue to stand aloof while countries like Morocco continue to act like colonial powers, occupying the Saharawi with impunity.  Is it not a shame that African leaders have re-admitted Morocco into the AU?

Yet Africa’s rallying cry during the fight against colonialism and imperialism was that an injury to one is an injury to all.

When Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah said Ghana’s independence would be meaningless unless the whole continent was free, he meant Africans had to fight together against the evils of imperialism and colonisation.

But what unity are we talking about when some countries on the continent vote to allow a colonial power to sit among themselves at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa and be involved in making decisions on important issues affecting the continent?

As Africa commemorates 54 years of the founding of the OAU, we call upon African leaders, through the Peace and Security Council and other mechanisms at their disposal, to re-double their efforts to ensure that lasting peace prevails on the continent.

Apart from dealing with conflicts afflicting the continent, Africa should also redouble efforts towards economic emancipation.  As we have said before, the continent is endowed with vast quantities of natural resources – from oil, rubber, timber, gold, copper, platinum, nickel, coal, uranium and precious stones such as diamonds and emeralds – yet its people wallow in abject poverty and thousands drown each year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek opportunities in Europe. It is time for leaders on the continent to vigorously pursue the beneficiation and industrialisation strategies as espoused by the AU two years ago for the benefit of the African people.

Countries on the continent also need to speak with one voice on the democratisation of the UN system, especially the Security Council, so that Africa also has a voice in world affairs.  The AU a few years ago adopted a resolution reaffirming the continent’s stance that it should get two permanent seats with veto powers and two non-permanent seats on an expanded United Nations Security Council. This call must now be transformed into action.

We believe the reform of the UN presents an opportunity for the former imperialists, who have plundered the continent’s resources to enrich themselves while under-developing Africa, to atone for their evil past and accept the continent as an equal partner in world affairs.

Africa must therefore continue pushing for meaningful and wide-ranging reforms of the Security Council. The continent is against cosmetic changes which will perpetuate its current position on the fringes of decision-making.

As we commemorate Africa Day, it is time for Africa to stand up and be counted.

May 2017
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