Africa ventures a common course

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Experts and foreign ministers for Syrte II Summit have begun arriving Tripoli, Libya en route to Syrte, the henceforth historic Libyan city where the idea to launch an African Union was first officially announced on 9 September 1999.
The meeting of ambassadors, followed by those of foreign ministers, later this month, will culminate on 2 March 2001, in the official and solemn proclamation of the African Union, a lose confederation of independent states, to begin a long march toward the ideal and the dream of the United States of Africa.
Nurtured and proposed by Colonel Mouamar Kadhafi to a number of his African peers invited to Syrte for the purpose, the idea soon turned into a veritable continental movement.
It was reminiscent of those post-colonial days when all that touched on the freedom and dignity of the people of Africa benefited from almost instant popular adhesion.
Unlike the pan-Africanist wind which blew hitch-free across the continent in the early 1960s, the movement for a united Africa, strong enough and capable of asserting the point of view of its peoples on the international scene, was predictably more challenging and more soul-searching.
Of course, just time itself has changed a lot in the way other peoples in other parts of the world view Africa, and in the way Africa views itself.
Whereas it is no longer fashionable to heap all the blame for their under-developed state on colonialism and exploitation by imperial governments, the peoples of Africa are faced with the daily complex problems of eking a living out of nothing and surviving tribal wars, the HIV/AIDS infections, externally imposed crushing debt servicing programmes, and the pangs from the dictatorships of their own brother-presidents.
"We shall not die" -- appears to be the driving force behind the various initiatives by African thinkers, politicians and statesmen who want tro stand against Afro-pessimism, that spirit of self-resignation which has dominated Africa for the last three decades.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa calls it "African Renaissance", while his Senegalese counterpart, Abdoulaye Wade, talks of the "Omega Plan".
Both agree that something needs to be done to save Africa and Africans from perpetual poverty, disease, malnutrition and self-defeat.
Colonel Kadhafi thinks that things to be done should begin with a united action, from a united front.
It is the creation of the Union of African states, somewhat based on the example of the European Union.
None of the concepts would be easily implemented, as long as that would imply a change, even only in concept, in the way the current balance in the world politics and economics is maintained.
And it would be senseless blaming those who stand to gain from what we see as injustices.
Perhaps it is the inability and/or unwillingness of Africans to articulate world issues in the light of their own paramount interests that needs to be reproached.
For example, on 22 February 2001, that is, less than one week to the official opening of the 2nd extraordinary summit of the OAU dedicated essentially to this solemn act, only 13 out of 43 African countries which signed the AU Treaty had got their parliaments to ratify it.
That makes for far less than the two-thirds of the total membership of the Organisation of African Unity which would be needed for the Union to be officially launched next week.
Optimism is rife and right to be, both in the Libyan capital and at the general secretariat of the OAU in Addis Ababa as to the effective solemn declaration of the Union.
How that optimism translates into concrete action will depend on the will of African governments present in Syrte to draw the line between the validity of the union proposals and the public image of their proponent.
Whether uncalled for or deserved, the opprobrium heaped on Col.
Khaddafi by some countries definitely has an effect on the way those countries and the ones they can influence on the African continent would view the African Union project.
Therefore, a move from the morbid militantism of the early 1960s would be necessary, to assure American and European partners that the African Union ideal is not in hostility to the west, but rather to create a new environment for a mutually beneficial parnership.
To be sure, that would be regrettable because it would be tantamount to confusing the effects of African problems for their causes.
Long after Nkwame Nkrumah's death and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, and in spite of the many lessons drawn from what they stood for and died in ignominy, it is interesting to observe the cautious nature with which some governments deal with pan-Africanists and pan -Africanist governments.
The Syrte rendezvous is for many, a celebration of pan- Africanism because what it proposes, the African Union, represents one of the best ways of placing Africa in a position to reconcile its own very existence as an integral part of the global system.
So, welcome to Syrte II and let Africa's re-birth begin.

22 february 2001 18:09:00

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