But as you will appreciate this is, not to put too fine a point on it, a case of collapsing form and substance – a case of putting the cart before the horse. It is the tasks at hand which must define both the vehicle for its deliverance as well as the modus operandi. In this sense, the case of a federal Africa with a unitary common high command is as old as the (O)AU. And for this reason, May 25 this year should not only be an opportunity to bring out the champagne but be one for frank and honest introspection as we deservedly celebrate the 50-year existence of our continental organisation.
Article II, which sets out the purposes of the charter and gave life to the OAU in the heady days following Africa’s independence and self-emancipation, sums up its raison d’être as “to promote unity and solidarity of the African states…” The charter also set forth the principle of inviolability of the borders bequeathed to us through the fiat of colonial conquest and humiliation. The question then is, have we arrived at that station for an African overlord, we mean, a president for Africa to issue (presumably) his edicts from Harare or some other outpost in Africa and govern justly such as to enhance the welfare and security of all Africans?
The tale of governance of our continent for the last 50 years cannot but fill us with trepidation about the inchoate and brittle nature of the African nation state. For the last 50 years sadly record, in the main, the progressive erosion of the welfare of the security of persons on our continent. It records rudderless states where men, yes men, in pursuit of power aided and abetted by others from both within and without Africa reduced our nation states to vassals.
Our continent remains home to and a source of the largest number or refugees fleeing the abuse of power and poverty visited upon by the tyrants who pose as our leaders. President Mugabe, for example, availed himself the aid of the savagery of a ruthless North Korean brigade to butcher restive Ndebele tribesmen in the country he has ruled without interruption since 1980. He has capped this with terror squads, acting in the name of state, party and government which ruined the economy, in the process making the Zim dollar disappear as inflation reached levels which could not be doused off with populist sloganeering. Elsewhere on the continent, his peers have oppressed opposition, looted the economies and created societies which live off charity and handouts, mainly from our erstwhile masters.
In the main, the OAU abused the notion of ‘non-interference’ shoring up often corrupt and unpopular regimes in the face of popular discontent from their populace, its decisions and protocols running over 1 000 were not worth the labour of the bureaucrats nor the paper they were printed on. Our continental organisation remains impotent when the most terrible crimes were being committed by that rogue Idi Amin and others of his ilk. Coups d’état cropped up with mechanical regularity.
Unlike in Africa, elsewhere in the world – Asia, Latin America – they have not allowed themselves to be perpetual victims of colonial debility. The 50th anniversary of our the (O)AU should be an opportunity to commence, albeit late, this discussion.
So is it time for a federal Africa of Nkwame Nkrumah and his collaborators of the Casablanca group or of Africa at the head of which is a single president?
Well, as President Mugabe knows only too well that the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. But truth be told, our record of the last 50 years will not be a great recommendation for a project of this scale today.
No, don’t get us wrong. We are blue-blooded Africans but the sufficient elements for this worthy project are absent today. We are, so to speak, only getting out of the starting blocks. Of course, AU must retain and perfect the contours of OAU but we must continue to breath new, if contemporary life, values and ethos into it. This will, inter alia, include the primacy of the security of the ordinary Africans above the survival of regimes. To this end, we are encouraged by the new values incorporated in the AU which emphasise democracy and development of the Africans. When the chips are down, we are ultimately left to our own devices but remember the world has long become a global village. As for May 25 this year, let’s dance.