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Moving Towards The United States Of Africa

One of the most significant events in modern history took place over the weekend when the members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), as a body, agreed to establish a Pan-African union. The new union would bring into reality a decades-long vision of "one Africa" where the continent of over 700 million would be united under law and with a common currency.

The BBC reported of the event:

"African leaders have agreed on the creation of an African union. A declaration was made at the conclusion of a two-day extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) held in Sirte, Libya. The meeting, hosted by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, was called to discuss proposals to set up an African union similar to the European Union.

An African union will not, however, come into existence immediately as not enough countries have formally ratified the treaty. Included in the union plan are a pan-African parliament, a court of justice and a central bank.

In a declaration released on Friday afternoon the signatories "solemnly declare the creation of an African union by unanimous agreement."

All 53 OAU member states have signed up to the declaration. However, in order for the declaration to come into effect two-thirds of OAU members, in other words 36 countries, need to ratify the agreement."

Never in modern history has such a monumental union been attempted. Even America's 50-state union is smaller in size and took nearly 200 years to complete, with states added to the union, intermittently.

To say that the OAU's mission is ambitious may be an understatement as the organization hopes to complete the union within a decade.

And great challenges remain.

While Libya's Muammar Khaddafi has provided sterling leadership and persistence in his cobbling together of a consensus among Africa's political leaders in favor of the union, there are numerous others yet to buy into the concept, much less its implementation.

While the masses of African people have long sought a closer and better working relationship between African nations, the OAU led-effort has up until the present been primarily a state-to-state led effort with Khaddafi persuading African heads of state of the merits of a pan-African union.

Now, the government and people in each individual African nation will have an opportunity to engage the proposal via a ratification process, which is necessary in order for the union to become a legal entity.

Hopefully open forums that include the totality of each nation's civil society will be held in order to discuss the pros and cons of the proposal. Such dialogue should eventually occur at a table that includes each country's lawmakers.

An environment ripe for dissatisfaction can easily form if all voices are not heard in relation to an undertaking as massive as the United States Of Africa.

While the OAU deserves a great amount of credit in pushing this grand and timely idea it certainly deserves a measure of criticism for the poor manner in which it has promoted and educated the general public, in Africa and in the Diaspora, of the motivation(s) and processes involved in the establishment of the African union.

We also think that the time has arrived for the OAU to lessen its dependence upon the United Nations for its support and technical assistance.

If the "United States of Africa" is to be lasting in nature and structure, its organizers must ensure that their efforts maintain an African identity which looks inward and toward the African Diaspora for its resources and sustenance.

And we reject the notion that the United States of Africa is to become or should be an EU-style entity. Far from emulating what has been done in Europe, Africans should learn from Europe's example what not to do.

In their haste to establish a European-wide union the EU minimized controversial issues like fiscal, foreign and defense policies. And the EU is paying for such a strategy today as it ostracizes countries like Ireland for undertaking economic growth policies simply because they do not mesh with the EU's vision of fiscal policy. Ireland's crime? It has produced economic growth through policies that violate EU economic orthodoxy; all the while the rest of Europe can't match Ireland's performance. So in order to have continent-wide harmony, Ireland is to be punished instead of followed.

We think that something is wrong with that picture.

The optimum African fiscal and monetary policies should be discussed, in depth, and during the ratification process in order to avoid following Europe's example.

At the same time that it follows outdated and disproved economic theories in unity, the EU is asking the United States for permission in order to establish its own military and peacekeeping force which could respond to problems on the European continent quicker than NATO- which follows the lead of the old Atlantic alliance of America and England.

Again, we think that something is wrong with that picture.

If Europe can unite for the purpose of forming a common currency, why can't they unite to form their own defense force, independent of American approval? Either the EU is a union and entitled to independent decision-making or it is not, we figure.

Such a mixture of dependence and independence is a recipe for disaster that will one day rupture the EU.

While the pressure will be on Africa to give trade and monetary policy a higher priority than fiscal, foreign and defense policies, we think that the OAU and African people should reject such half-baked approaches to unity. Do it right or don't do it at all.

In America, among Black leaders, only Nation Of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has figured prominently in the strategy and promotion of the Pan-African Union. This is unfortunate, as the proposal deserves the input and support of the Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, Rainbow PUSH, SCLC, Urban League, Trans Africa, N'Cobra, the National Action Network and other Black organizations.

Far from the photo-ops generated by President Clinton's celebrated trips to the African continent, the United States of Africa can represent a real pro-Africa agenda that positively impacts Blacks in the United States, the Western Hemisphere and in Africa.

A roll call, for the public record, should be taken on which Black organizations and leaders support the proposal and which ones do not.

We suggest that the role of the Black electorate in the Western Hemisphere is one of support and constructive criticism of the OAU's efforts as well as influencing US foreign policy in a manner that is supportive of African efforts to provide solutions to the problems that have ailed the continent.

Careful attention must be paid to the effect that IMF, World Bank, WTO and UN policies are having on Africa and the eventual formation of an all-African Union. And consideration of the merit and impact of US and UN sanctions on African nations should also become a top priority of the Black electorate in the US.

We can't think of anyone more qualified to monitor the US government in relation to Africa than the Black electorate in America.

In addition, the Black electorate must be supportive and critical of international and African efforts to address the continent's AIDS epidemic, civil wars, the dispute in the Congo, political reform and corruption in government.

And lastly, the Black media must raise its antenna and increase its coverage of events that are taking place on the African landscape. Too much is at stake for history to record that we just "did not know" what was going on.

Let it be duly noted that we are moving toward the United States of Africa.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, March 6, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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