Addis Ababa — The African Union – the continental legislative body of the continent was established On May 26 2001, in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa and launch on July 09th, 2002 in South Africa, to replace the previous name, the Organization of African Unity.
It is worth mentioning that the Organization of the African Unity was formed on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, the formation came from a culmination of the 1961-2 African treaties calling for unity of the African independent states to support each other in war against colonization so as to protect African peoples,’ properties and most importantly territorial integrity. The paper will discuss about the achievements and shortcomings of the African Union in the last 50 years since its formation in 1963.
Let me start by giving a praise to Africans for having coming together in 1963 for a common objective which was first to fight against colonial masters in order to free Africans from the European powers through independent states under African leaders rather than colonial countries; this was the first initial rationale behind the formation of the continental body.
The African Union started with a few member states and rapidly grows to engulfing the whole of the continent with exception of French, United Kingdom, Portuguese territories, even Morocco which pull out in 1984 as a result of objecting to majority support for the Sahrawi Arab Republic under the leadership of Polisario Front to become autonomous has a special status within the AU commission headquarters in Addis Ababa, and negotiation is ongoing for Morocco to fall back to the Union.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo which boycotted the decision by the majority of African heads of state to allow Sahrawi Arab Republic to become independent state fall back in 1987 after a series of discussion with the continental body.
It is very imperative at this point to note that almost all of Africa was colonized with the exception of Ethiopia in the horn of Africa and Liberia in the far West, part of the reasons for the colonization of Africa was attributed to lack of unity among the African people, tribal divisions played a great role and has enormously assisted the colonizers in achieving power in a short period of time. It is hard for anyone to believe that 97 percent of the land of a continent of an area size of 29, 865, 860 Km2, 11, 531, 273 square miles with a sizable population in the 16th, 17th 18th and 19th centuries would be taken easily by a few foreigners regardless of their advancement in weaponry. But divide and rule policy works its way as Africans were already found divided on tribal lines.
Kingdoms and chiefdoms were also bitterly divided as well. As a result of the divisions, Africans were turn to fight against each other and the colonial army acted as reinforcement when necessary.
After the formation of the African Union in 1963, leaders like Nkwame Nkrumah of Ghana, King Selassie of Ethiopia, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and other African nationalists united and assisted other sisterly states under colonial rule to become independent and the fighting goes on until the last country South Africa was freed in 1994, after Angola, Zimbabwe and others.
This achievement is attributed to the immense work of the AU founding fathers. What follows from here was the proposal of creation and strengthening of African institutions beginning with the AU to be able to achieve the set goals which included, the achievement of unity and solidarity between African states, promotion of good health, protection of the continent from internal and external threat, acceleration of economic and political integration of the continent, promotion of international relations and promotion of peace, stability, development and security among many others.
Now that we have seen the continent’s population is growing rapidly and is estimated at about 1,053,136,000 according to 2013 statistic and this requires the body to really come up with massive economic plan and package to be able to offset the population. The African Union as continental body achievements includes:
1. Managing to bring together almost all of the continental members with exception Morocco
2. Creation of economic plans which propelled GDP to 3,757 trillion US dollars according to 2014 economic and financial review
3. Increasing of the income per capita from $900 5 years ago to $2, 173
4. Bringing about stability in some parts of the continent through deployment of peace keeping force as the case in Burundi, the Sudan
5. Creating commissions to deal with various matters in the continent such as the peace and security commission which deals with reconciling warring parties in the continent
and issuing punitive decisions for members not complying with continental laws as the case with Central African Republic.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE AFRICAN UNION: ITEMS RECOMMENDED TO BE ACHIEVED IN THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AFRICAN UNION:
The AU as a continental body have achieved tremendous objectives since its formation in 1963 and setting out objectives to be achieve in the next decades or so 2023 as agreed upon in the 50th anniversary of the Union and the 50th ordinary session of the assembly. The union has been encouraging Africans within and in Diaspora to contribute ideas on how to propelled the continent economically, socially, politically and culturally to a high level, and this encouragement which came directly from the union has kick some of us from the hiding bushes to come out and give recommendations and suggestions for the assembly of the heads of state and governments to consider. As a concern African, I have the following suggestions and recommendations for the continental people, body and friends of Africa to consider.
THE ASSEMBLY’S DECISIONS: PART (I)
First, the decision of the African Union always result from a semi- annual meetings of the heads of state and governments which forms the assembly and then once the decisions are made, it is passed to the executive council- a body comprised of foreign ministers. This body prepares decisions and then submits to the assembly for review and once all are in order, the assembly members assent the document and it becomes a law; this is how decisions are made in the AU. As far as I am concern, the Assembly of the heads of state and governments is the highest legislative organ of the continental body. The pan African Union is yet to replace it after it is agreed upon by the respective members of the assembly. My take on this is that the Pan African Union or the Assembly is the same as its members will comprised of the heads of state and governments. The matter at hand here is not about changing the name but changing the way how leaders think. We need leaders who match what they say with what they do, people with vision for the continent. The current Chairperson of the African Union said once that “We need leaders who think Africans”, indeed she is correct, we need people who think how the continent and its people can be uplifted with the enormous resources it has. So here it is not about changing name but change in how leaders and citizens think about the continent.
PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE CONTINENT: PART (II)
Like I mention the past paragraphs that the continent has done a good job in bringing stability to some of the countries but the action is low compared to the continent strength. A continent with 54 countries is expected to implement its rule and bring about calm and stability in the continent. I think the issue here is not whether the body is able to bring peace and security or not but rather the issue of leaders. African leaders are afraid to criticize one another and this is a big problem itself. The AU has a commission that deals with corruption issues and a branch that deals with making sure member states implement the goals which the assembly agreed upon. The body is charge to summon heads of state who are seen or suspected of going astray from the roadmap of the “African we want” to implementing their own wishes. The former South African president, his Excellency Thabo Mbeki once said, the commission should be questioning leaders who are not implementing the policies of the African we want and give them time to fall back to the roadmap or else be summoned for questioning for not practically implementing the document that they themselves have agreed to implement.
SUSPENSION OF MEMBER STATES: PART (III)
It is very important to understand that the assembly of the heads of state, the highest political bureau of the African Union is charged with taking actions according to the constitution of the union to suspend, summon and warn any member states that is not in line with the constitution. It is also interesting to know as to whether all of the heads of state and government are actually loyal followers of the body’s constitution. The observation of many experts, intellectuals and learned citizens is that the body is reluctance in exercising its authority and the cause of this is mainly attributed to political, military and economic interest. Building of friendships between leaders makes it hard for them to go against each other. Friendship in this case should not compromise the rights of citizens; friendship should be used to build the union. I think the issue here is not constitution per se but the lack of will to implement it. I believe the assembly has the power to remove any leader who is seen to be in violation of the continental body’s constitution. In order to achieve democracy, justice, development and stability in the continent, the body should be strong and forceful enough to remove leaders violating the constitution and then set up an interim government headed by neutral official of the body from a different member state. The transitional government should be tasked with writing of the constitution that reflects and goes in line with that of the body and then prepares the way for democratic elections.
The body should not tolerate leaders who came to power to dismantle democratic constitutions and replacing with authoritarian just to keep themselves in power and to add insult to pain, some leaders stay for long in power without delivering services to the citizens and yet is allowed to fully participate in the affairs of the assembly. Leaders should be told in no uncertain terms that the continent is not willing to accept and keep leaders without vision and love for the citizens in power and the body as a whole has the right to evict such a leader from power in the shortest possible time to replace with visionary and democratic leadership.
INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS: PART (IV)
The African union in its goal to deliver services so as to improve the lives of the continent’s population has in various summits; conferences debated and formed a number of commissions to deal with different issues facing the continent. These bodies are not bad but needs some changes and repositioning in order for them to be able to deliver services to which meets their set objectives. For example, a body like the African union convention on prevention and combating corruption was formed in 2003 after several times of debates on the document. The commission has no liaison offices in the 53 member states hence making it unable to truly promote its objectives. Corruption is one of the serious issues affecting African countries, and such a body should be empowered to operate in each state and work together with state authorities to see how anti-corruption mechanisms can be installed and implemented.
The African Charter for democracy, elections and governance was formed in 2007. Such an important body should have been formed since long time ago because it is hard for stability, peace and development to come across in the absent of democracy. Democracy encourages and promotes creativity, people should have the right to express their opinions freely and leaders should be playing the main role in encouraging the continents population to freely express their opinions on how the continent is should be organized and run. Criticisms and counter-criticisms should be seen by the continental leaders as a positive element in achieving goals and improving ourselves. Multi-party elections are very important because it is through oppositions that the party in power can see the wrongs it is doing. Oppositions should not be seen as enemy, an opposition is your fellow brother, sister and most importantly an African citizen. The Charter for democracy should have liaison offices in the member states and should be engaging governments to follow suit with the democratic ideals set by the continental body. It is with deep regret that most of the leaders have thrown this document into the dustbin and is nowhere to be found.
The African Economic Community is chief important aspect of the body but its achievement is less than a single drop of rain water. Leaders in the assembly should now openly move forward instead of consuming time on agendas that should have been discussed 50 years ago. It is time now to merge all those little economic bodies to one. In addition, the continental body has a total of 42 currencies and this should be reduced to one if the continent intends to become an economic powerhouse. It is instructive to mention here that various political and economic communities such as mention in this paper has been formed but merging of currencies, foreign affairs and defense systems are yet to be seen. The question of when this is expected to take place is yet to be answered by the leadership of the African Union. The 57 telephone calling codes should also be downsized to one and made affordable to its citizens, unlike the current system where each country has its own country code. Studies and various surveys conducted across the continent shows that more than 70 percent of the continent’s population cannot afford to call a friend or family in the neighboring country. For example, it is cheaper for someone in Kenya with little amount of funds to call Europe or North America than calling someone in the Neighboring country like Tanzania.
CONCLUSION: PART (V)
I would like to conclude in no uncertain terms that there is no society under the sky that has never undergone colonization, oppression, subjugation and gloomy moments at some extent in their history. A common person knows very well that the past cannot be rewritten or mended but it can surely be used as archives or reference to correct ourselves through analysis of past mistakes. What really count here is what the continent and its leaders can do now and not tomorrow to alleviate its population from suffering and putting a plan in addition to the recommendations above to work on with a set goal to achieve them fully in the conclusion of the 100th anniversary of the union.
Unless the continental body reviews its documents, failures, achievements for the last 50 years and draw a concrete plans for the next 50 years and measurement plans for the set objectives, it is likely to continue to suffer from war, famine, corruption, diseases and lack of economic progress. It is therefore the collective responsibilities of the African leaders, citizens to come together and work together hand in hand to see to it that the continental achieve what intends to achieve economically, socially, technologically and politically. On that day of achievement of those goals and equally measuring ourselves with first world countries, we will then say “Never Again Shall Africa be subjected to conflict, diseases, corruption, and ruthless regimes” (Nyamilepedia)