The Herald (Harare)

29 May 2013

Zimbabwe: Quo Vadis Our Dear African Union

editorial

THIS week the African Union celebrated 50 years of existence and launched year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations to celebrate achievements made, and also introspect on failures suffered. Congratulations are in order albeit mostly to the AU's fore-runner, the Organisation of African Unity that managed to usher in political independence throughout the continent.

Today, all but one of the AU's 54 member states are independent. It is only the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic that continues reeling under the expansionist ambitions of Morocco which long left the AU to seek associate membership of the European Union.

This is one of the scars on the AU's conscience.

The OAU before it managed to free over 50 countries, the AU is failing to find solutions to decolonise just one, Saharawi.

This, however, in a way sums up the story of the AU, that was launched amid much hype in South Africa in 2002, with a brief to transform the African story from the political to the economic dimension but which to this day is itself still to be financially independent.

Over three quarters of the AU budget is western donor driven, a development that has hamstrung the AU's ability to decisively deal with peace and security challenges confronting the continent, many of which have a western face.

As we raise our glasses to toast the continental body, we would do well to recall the words of one of the panellists at the official launch of the Golden Jubilee festivities Dr Amina Mama, a Nigerian writer and gender activist who said, though the date tells us it's time to celebrate, the data counsels caution.

This is because one of Africa's eminent sons, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi asks from his unmarked grave in the Libyan desert: "What have you done to take my killers to account?" To rub insult to injury, the AU invited French president Francois Hollande to pontificate high-sounding nothings at the Golden Jubilee festivities in the vast Millennium Hall.

Laurent Gbagbo asks from behind the walls of his house arrest, "What have you done about the French gendarmes who deposed me and installed their preferred man, Allassane Ouattara?"

The AU has instead watched as the French made another beeline into northern Mali.

The people of the eastern DRC, who today reel from an M23 inspired war fuelled by Rwanda and Uganda ask: "What have you done about Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame, who are destabilising us."

The two not only sat in AU councils without any hard questions thrown at them but Uganda's foreign minister was recommended for a top UN post by the African Union Council.

These are just a few of the examples that come to mind in the midst of an ocean of the AU's warts.

It is a fact, our continental body is high on hyperbole but low on action. We hope as African leaders celebrate the milestone of 50 Years under the poignant theme, "Pan Africanism and African Renaissance", they will appreciate that Pan Africanism means putting Africa first, and renaissance calls for a rebirth of the union.

We have to return to the source, May 25 1963, and see if our puny feet fit into the colossal shoes of the founding fathers.

If they do, there is no reason why Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe should continue to be the lone voice against neo-colonialism in all its guises.

It is time we all picked the clarion call from Cape Town to Cairo, from Mogadishu to Freetown, we need to find the answers that congealed our continent into a permanent question mark shape.

Let's hope we will have the courage of our convictions to have not only a stronger AU but a politically and economically integrated continent come 2063.

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