Mkandawire pleads for new brand of Panafricanism

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Delegates at the Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora opening here Thursday have a huge task to cover twelve themes whose introductory papers are assigned to selected authors heading six commissions.
Central to these themes is "the contribution of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora to the consolidation of African integration" as it deals with one of the major concerns of the conference and simultaneously addresses the thorny issue of integration whose full achievement is yet to be completed.
In this respect, Malawite Thandika Mkandawire, director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, takes a formal approach in his paper on the theme: "Rethinking Panafricanism".
He says "the role of intellectuals must focus on designing a new democratic Panafricanism that will strengthen the continent's capacity to harness the vast human resources (both at the levels of the Diaspora and the Continent), and natural resources in a bid to totally eliminate poverty and disease which have been Africa's burden for so long, and to weave a web based on its great cultural diversity".
And this new Panafricanism, according to Mkandawire, is expected to "adopt a more democratic and more participatory process as a basis for the Panafrican project, even if this is not a mathematical sum of the preoccupations of the new social movements for which Panafricanism provides a new framework to implement local and national programmes".
The author of "Rethinking Panafricanism" bases his appeal on the assumption that "political unification and economic integration of the continent have so far failed to materialise, at least when assessed against the dreams of the main figures of the Panafrican Movement, documents and programmes prepared for Panafrican conferences, and declarations and speeches of African leaders".
"They failed when compared to other regional co-operation projects in other continents.
They failed in relation to the Continent's well-defined and clearly perceived needs.
They failed in the face of the motive force of Panafricanism in African speeches," he maintained.
Citing reasons for such failure, Mkandawire named the lack of national grounding for regional integration, which he attributes to the obstacle that an authoritarian government represents, "only made it possible that anything coming from the outside world depends on one single person and his entourage (still his)".
"It is this stifling political environment of the authoritarian government which prevents the existence of a political response to our emotional commitments.
It is this environment which made the African Union a matter for heads of state and which explains that it is said in the preamble of the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU): "We the heads of state and government" and not "We the African peoples".
In his views, this is what boiled the OAU down to what former Tanzanian president, late Julius Nyerere described as the "Committee of Dictators".
Therefore, he said, "if Africa is to unite, the spokesman of the different political constituent elements of Panafricans should derive their power from the populations.
It is necessary that the platform for the Union should have a democratic base.
The lesson that can be drawn is that it was naive to think that African dictators could unite Africa".
Mkandawire lists the reasons: "First, a certain number of these dictators were the source from which destabilisation and divisive forces which threatened national integration took their strength.
Some have gone as far as fuelling ethnic conflicts.
Secondly, regional integration involves relinquishing that part of one's national sovereignty".
"Accustomed to exercising absolute power over the affairs of each nation, the concept of a supreme political body in Africa was simply unacceptable.
The dictators who have so far ruled the region had a tendency to mistake national sovereignty for their own power and probably considered any reduction of national sovereignty as an attack against their person.
They therefore had a tendency to block any transfer of authority to a supreme regional body," he explained.
And, not being accountable to anybody for the accords which they signed, in view of contempt for the law and impunity of an authoritarian administration, these accords did not have the force of law either at national or regional level," he added.
The African Union being born at a time when the demand for democratisation and the ending of authoritarian power was stronger, Mkandawire says human rights violations must no way be justified in the name of "collective rights".
The author considers that "democratisation at regional level can be of good omen for national integration, given that the new democracies seriously take democratic development and regard regional integration as a useful tool".
Mkandawire believes that the new regimes share a certain number of values and are prepared to collectively accept a supreme regional power on a certain number of issues.

06 october 2004 22:00:00

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