Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 16 February 2017

Where’s the ‘Pan African Unity’ Project?

The election of Chad’s Moussa Faki to head the African Union means that France will effectively hold sway in Africa.

It is this generation whose sense of rage guarantees Africa’s advance towards its renaissance” – Thabo Mbeki

As the African Union concluded its 28th Summit it was safe to assert that the French Government is effectively in charge of the affairs of the continent. With the elections of the Chad candidate, Honourable Moussa Faki Mahamat, it is rumoured in the corridors in Addis that all future decisions will now be consulted with the French in Paris.

This comes as a major blow to the efforts of the South African government, which was squarely backing the candidate from Kenya. Hence the numerous visits to Kenya in the last few weeks.

It is a well-known fact that the divisions on the continent run along the lines of who is Francophone, Lusophone, Arabic and Anglophone. It is equally known that the umbilical cord between the former French colonies (Francophone countries) and their coloniser, France, remain much stronger than other colonial powers. With many government officials having holiday houses in France, most of their money is banked in France and their children attend French universities and in some cases schools in France. In short, these fellow Africans see themselves as French nationals, period.

And so the question that we must ask is how if any is Mr Mahamat going to effect real change on the continent and not only serve the national interests of France.

When looking at Geo-Strategic global trends,

  • The Re-Configuring of Global Balance of Forces;
  • The African Union and its Peace and Security Agenda;
  • Globalisation and the Role of Finance Capital, and
  • The devastating effects of Climate Change,

Can we expect that our new AU Commissioner will indeed be able to respond to these challenges and provide us all with the requisite answer to the question, “What is Africa’s response to these trends”. It equally beckons the question what did his predecessor do that is noteworthy in this regard or has the “poverty of thought” phenomenon also been allowed to occupy a seat in Addis?

With the victory of President Trump in the USA, the world is uncertain as to his real intend with regards to world affairs. For one, he mentioned very little about Africa with the run up to the presidency. He also indicated that all trade agreements will be reviewed so as to serve the national interest of the US first and foremost which has a bearing on the AGOA agreement in which many African countries enjoy tax free trade regulations with the USA. Furthermore, he indicated that he does not see the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) which again will have far-reaching challenges for Africa. And finally, the travel ban imposed on certain Muslim countries has a direct impact on three African countries – Libya, Somalia and Sudan. What does it all mean for Africa?

As to the matter of peace and security on the continent, the lens through which we approach this must be our lens and not that of Western countries and their imperatives.

There remain many other issues that plague our continent and drastic action will be required to fight, among others, our number one enemy in Africa, poverty, not terrorism; it requires lateral thinking on our part and out-of-the-box approaches, if we are to make a difference in the lives of many Africans who live below the poverty line. Only once this critical priority is satisfied can we then of course deal with, Muslim extremism in Nigeria, Sudan and the horn of Africa generally, terrorist groups in the Congo, Burundi and further afield.

As for tackling globalisation and global financial capital for a better world order, the illicit flows of capital from the continent is a major concern. This according to the latest figures amount to billions of US dollars, that is stolen by fellow Africans. Our own battle with “white monopoly capital” here in South Africa is a further indication of the frustrations being experienced daily in addressing desperately needed socio-economic redress due to our own poverty, unemployment and inequality. This remain a huge challenge for the continent as well.

Last, the critical matter of climate change cannot be denied, unlike Trump and some of his cronies who are denialists in this regard. Here in Africa though, the threat is real; water scarcity remains a serious problem and indeed will lead to future wars on the continent. The idea that South Africa will certainly in the next few years annex Lesotho so as to take control over its water resources is not as far-fetched as you might think. The tensions that exist between Malawi and its neighbours over the jurisdiction of Lake Malawi also speak to this challenge. The water resource in the Great Lakes Region contributes to these tensions and so as Trump and his cronies might have the benefit of denials, we in Africa can ill afford such pretences.

In addition to these major challenges, Africa continues to aspire towards greater achievements.

According to the AU’s Agenda 2063, we are told that as Africans we strive towards the attainment of 7 strategic goals.

  • A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

It states that, we are determined to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent.

  • An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.It goes on, that since 1963, the quest for African Unity has been inspired by the spirit of Pan Africanism, focusing on liberation, and political and economic independence. It is motivated by development based on self-reliance and self-determination of African people, with democratic and people-centred governance.
  • An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

    Furthermore, Africa shall have a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

  • A peaceful and secure Africa.

    Mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. As a first step, dialogue-centred conflict prevention and resolution will be actively promoted in such a way that by 2020 all guns will be silent. A culture of peace and tolerance shall be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education.An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics.Pan-Africanism and the common history, destiny, identity, heritage, respect for religious diversity and consciousness of African people’s and her diaspora’s will be entrenched.

  • An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.All the citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects. Africa shall be an inclusive continent where no child, woman or man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religion, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors.
  • Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

Africa shall be a strong, united, resilient, peaceful and influential global player and partner with a significant role in world affairs. We affirm the importance of African unity and solidarity in the face of continued external interference including, attempts to divide the continent and undue pressures and sanctions on some countries”.

Whether Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma succeeded in bringing the continent closer to these goals remains a debatable point but one thing for sure is that Mr Mahamat has a responsibility to ensure that the destiny of all Africans remains a project of Africans and not some foreign influence who will inevitably serve their own narrow national interests. We only have to look at the military involvement of the French armed forces in countries such as Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone to mention but a few. The French president recently also admitted that were it not for the strong ties with former colonies in Africa, the overall GDP of France would not have been as strong today and hence they are so valued and invested in these countries. It is part of their national security imperatives.

Dlamini-Zuma in her concluding speech at the 28th AU Summit stated the following,

The strength of Africa lies in its unity and its Pan-Africanism. When our forebears united, Africa was able to win its independence from colonialism against countries with armies and economies far bigger than ours. We should, therefore, never allow ourselves to be divided by anyone, or by anything. We should, as much as possible, coordinate our positions and adopt common positions. Let us stand or fall together! But we will not fall. Forward ever, backward never!”

Hopefully Mahamat will take heed of these and place the importance of Pan-Africanism before self-interests. Hopefully he will carve out his own destiny and contribution to the affairs of Africa and not be influenced by other forces. Only time will tell. DM

Dr Oscar van Heerden’s new book, Consistent or Confused – The politics of Thabo Mbeki’s foreign policy years 1995-2007, has been released this month in most leading book stores


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Note from the Editor

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