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Friday, December 25, 2009

Africa Yes We Can but only If We are United

“We cannot be kept into a limited space by African leaders who are holding on to petty little states” President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.

For decades the dream of an African continent united under one leadership, one government with a prosperous people with shared values, shared interest, common citizenship and with a common destiny and taking their place in the world community of nations has alluded the leadership in Africa. On the 12th of February 2009 Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade is quoted as saying “the United States of Africa will be proclaimed in 2017, to allow for the time needed to work out the different African institutions," Source:Pan-African News Agency, 12th of February 2009.

If realized as mentioned it will be a milestone for many who want to see a united Africa with a common foreign, trade, agricultural, environment, immigration and economic policies. There are many skeptics who doubt Africa's ability to achieve unity but I strongly believe it is possible to achieve unity if we work together. Unity in Africa is achievable if we eschew the bickerings and the misunderstandings that characterized earlier effort to unite.

African leaders must first and foremost recognize that unity in Africa is in our best interest and the only option we have if we want to attain peace, stability and economic development in Africa. Must recognize that we can only make progress if North, South, East, Central and West Africa come together as one, act together as one and speak with one voice. Unity is the only key to our success. We can only make progress if we dismantle the artificial boundaries that have divided our peoples for quite too long. We can never develop if we continue to hold on to the artificial colonial divisions that divided tribes, peoples and regions without into consideration the needs of the people. We must unite as one people if we are to ensure the future survival of our continent. We can only guarantee the rights of our children and their children’s children to be the owners of our great continent if we take steps to unite our countries.

There can never be peace and development if we are not united. Africans must remember that it was our disunity in the past that enabled Europe to exploit our continent for centuries and even today it is being exploited by the so called super powers to our own disadvantage. We have had our people carried into slavery, we have had our resources looted by foreigners, we have had our countries invaded, and even today we are under siege from foreign powers and their corporations who are raping the continent of its valuable resources for their own selfish gains. We are helpless because we are fragmented. We are helpless because we cannot speak with one voice. We are helpless because we are disunited. We cannot act together to bring peace to Somalia,Sudan and DR. Congo because some of our leaders with the connivance of foreign defence companies and contractors are benefiting from those conflicts.

If Africa is going to make it then the leaders must act together as one, eschew their personal interests and put the needs of the continent first.

Julius Nyerere in an interview about Africa’s unity said this:

“Kwame Nkrumah and I were committed to the idea of unity. African leaders and heads of state did not take Kwame seriously. However, I did. I did not believe in these small little nations. Still today I do not believe in them. I tell our people to look at the European Union, at these people who ruled us who are now uniting. Kwame and I met in 1963 and discussed African Unity. We differed on how to achieve a United States of Africa. But we both agreed on a United States of Africa as necessary... After independence the wider African community became clear to me. I was concerned about education; the work of Booker TWashington resonated with me. There were skills we needed and black people outside Africa had them. I gave our USAmbassador the specific job of recruiting skilled Africans from the US Diaspora. A few came, like you. Some stayed; others left. We should try to revive it. We should look to our brothers and sisters in the West. We should build the broader Pan-Africanism. There is still the room – and the need Julius Nyerere interviewed by Ikaweba Bunting, The Heart of Africa, New Internationalist Magazine, Issue 309, January-February 1999.

Fearful of what Africa could achieve if united, Europe led by France one of the beneficiaries of Africa disunity is proposing what they term ‘Mediterranean Union’ an association that encompasses all nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea including the five north African countries, a move largely seen as an attempt by Europeans to weaken Africa’s effort to unite. This is the divide and rule policies of Europe that has ensured that continental Africa never gets united to do things central to their own people. We must fight this divide and rule policies if we are ever going to make it as a continent and as a people. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt can never be called Europe and will never be accepted as Europeans no matter what Nicolas Sarkozy says and the earlier the leaders in North Africa realise it the better. We must resist and fight every attempt to weaken and destroy our effort to unite.

“The Mediterranean Union project is also rife with hidden agendas, including the promotion of French national interests, while ignoring some of the biggest dangers in the former European colonies in West Asia and Africa… France’s real motive, though, is to establish a French southern sphere of influence to counter Germany’s dominant position in central and Eastern Europe”, Fri, 1 Aug 2008.

The secrecy and the hidden agenda of the Mediterranean Union project was rightly noted by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal:

But of course there are other obvious goals behind the Union for the Mediterranean initiative like Algeria's oil and gas and Libyan oil,".

Today Europe is moving forward with political and economic integration while it is making effort to weaken Africa with the hope that a weakened, fragmented and disunited Africa will make it possible for the resources of these countries to be exploited and looted as is currently going on in Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, DRC, Angola, Congo where American and European multinational corporations are paying close to nothing for the resources they take.

Leaders in Africa who are dragging their feet and only interested in the sovereignty of their insignificant countries must recognise that a united Africa is in their best interest and those of their children and their children’s children.They may be less concerned and not interested in Africa unity because they may be enjoying power in their respective countries but how can they guarantee the future of their own countries, the future of their children and their children's children when they are weak economically and continue to rely on foreign aid for the survival of their governments?

I believe President Abdoulaye Wade was right when he said: “We cannot be kept into a limited space by African leaders who are holding on to petty little states”. By any margin each of the countries in Africa is weak politically, economically and militarily to stand on its own and it is only by uniting and integrating our economies that we can stand on our feet and be recognized as people. We must not hold on to our small, weak and powerless states in the name of sovereignty, we must unite for the good of Africa and its people.

"Sovereignty also masks the weakness of Africans at a time when other people have pooled political power in vast territories like China, India,Brazil, Russia and the United States of America. The very colonial countries that were the "foreigners" against whom independent African states wished to protect their sovereignty are themselves building the European Union as a bigger source of power in the global arena”--, 6 August 2009. Where as there is common sense as why Europe is uniting, there is no common sense as why Africans who are weak in every sense of the word are not uniting. If the powerful are uniting definitely, the weak must be uniting too.

We must achieve unity at all cost. There are many in East and South Africa that favour United States of Africa through the regional groupings whereas those in the North and West favour a more rapid integration. We can not allow this to delay and detract our effort to unite. Therefore I suggest we allow our diplomats, intellectuals to dialogue and negotiate as which approach suits us best but the 2017 deadline must be met.

We stand to gain if we are united. Unity has the added advantage of defeating the wars that continue to ravage many parts of the continent. It has the advantage of helping us to pool resources together to tackle the many challenges facing the continent. Unity will end the disputes between Nigeria and Cameroon regarding the ownership of the Bakasi Peninsula. It will end the near escalated tension between Kenya and Uganda that we saw this year over the Migingo island in Lake Victoria that pitted Uganda against Kenya. Unity will end the 9 km stretch of land in Yumbe that has brought dispute between Uganda and Sudan, it will end the Katuna border area dispute between Rwanda and the Mutukula border area with Tanzania. If we are united as one people and as one country there will be no need for the many border disputes including the one between Morocco, Algeria and Western Sahara. Unity will make it unnecessary for Uganda and Rwanda to cross several times into DR. Congo to take resources for the development of their countries. Unity will enable us to speak with voice. Deal with Europe, America, China and India through the government that will represent all of us. We can harness the resources in Africa for the good of all us so that Niger, Mali, Rwanda and other resource poor countries will not to go to war before having access to resources that they need.

Hutus, Tutsis and other tribes in the Great Lake region will not have to fight each other for control of land and resources since they will not be bound by space. They can come to Ghana live anywhere, farm and enjoy their live. That is what unity can bring us.

To make the unity of Africa possible we must stop thinking in terms of Anglophone, Francophone and Arabs or Mediterraneans. We must think as Africans not as French or English or German or Dutch, Spanish or Portuguese, or Arabic speakers. There can never be a United States of Africa so far as we are divided into Anglophone, Francophone and whatever. These divisions and categorisations only serve France and Britain’s interest not us. Unity must be achieved at all cost. There is no doubt that there are differences in languages, religion and traditional or cultural practices among our peoples but that should not be a source of division, wars and hatred but rather they must be a source of inspiration that drive us together.

These categorisations have been exploited by those who want to see Africans poor. Those who for centuries manipulated us, exploited our resources, imprisoned our leaders, overthrew our governments and assassinated our leaders still want to control us. If we do not unite against the external forces bent on seeing us weak and fragmented then we have ourselves to blame. "Together we stand, together we fall" that should be our motto. We are all Africans and Africa is our home and we must all work to make it good for ourselves, for our children and for our children’s children. The people of Southern Sudan, Northern Sudan, and Darfur must see themselves as Africans not as Southerners, Northerners or Darfurians. Those categorisations only serve the interest of those who want the wars to continue so they can exploit our resources while we are busy fighting. We must know that there is no Nigeria but Africa; there is no Egypt or Algeria, Libya or Sudan or Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa but Africa. If we think as Africans and work together we can accomplish a lot for our peoples.

This is why we must make the United States of Africa a reality by the 2017 deadline. It is important that some countries make economic and political sacrifices if we are to get there. South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Kenya, DRC, Botswana, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, Zambia must make political commitment to bring peace and stability in Africa. The unity of Africa depends on the cooperation of these countries.

Individually we cannot deal with the United States, the European Union, Russia or China, we cannot because we do not have the strength to act and bring pressure to bear. If we want to make our influence felt as the world’s natural resource power house then we must unite and speak with one voice, unite and have one foreign policy, unite and have one economic policy, unite and have one agricultural policy, unite and have one trade policy.

Currently at the United Nations there are more countries from Africa than from Europe and North America combined yet we do not have any say on what goes on in there because we are not united, we do not speak with one voice.

China which is just one country makes a lot of impact at the United Nations than all the over 50+ countries from Africa. If we want to change this unfavourable balance of power then we have no option than to unite.

There are many challenges such as the huge size of the continent, the high level of illiteracy, wide infrastructural gaps, poverty, differences in language but all these can be solved if we commit our hearts to it.

Yes we can but only if we are united.

By Lord Aikins Adusei

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