In Search of a Real African Union
By Daniel S.
The African Union (AU) has built itself a new headquarters. This is a good thing although many might fail to see the need for it. At least we have managed to find a historical place upon which to erect the new building. It used to be a prison where many innocent lives were brought to an end by ruthless dictators, all the massacres somehow falling out of the Union’s radar. Sure it is not a history the AU is proud of, but let us forget about all that and imagine the future of the continent and the union’s role in it. It is a new day and we should be trying to identify the faults of the union and find a remedy.
Enough for the imagination and let’s get back to reality. Can the faults or blunders of the AU be researched on? And can anyone come up with a suggestion for its remedy? It is highly improbable. This is because the union has never really set out to achieve something of great concern for African countries. Unlike other regional unions bound by common interests, economic for instance, the AU is not bound by a clear vision except for the first few years of its life when the issue of independence was a rallying point. But that period and that context is way over now and the union hasn’t been able to restructure and reposition itself for the new challenges of the continent ever since. Hence, there is no need for researches as the union hasn’t really embarked upon anything significant for much if its existence. This makes the issue fundamental, requiring common sense, and not research, to explain its weakness.
The problem with AU is fundamental that leads to the conclusion that it is in essence obsolete. What concrete outcomes have so far come about as a result of the union’s effort? More often than not, the union has instead served as an extension to the manipulation of African countries by foreign powers. The union’s endorsement of the unlawful and unjust sanction on Eritrea, where ironically not single concrete evidence was brought to justify it, can be mentioned. Let us not go to the extent of suggesting that a union such as the AU should have the power to impose a meaningful sanction on its member if it should be considered as relevant. But why, at least morally, couldn’t it stand on the side of its members when they are being targeted? The rhetoric of the union’s objectives and the practice has so far been poles apart.
Any union is made up of members, and hence the weakness or strength of it might be the direct reflection of its members. However, though ideally speaking and as far as the need and the impact on individual members is concerned, unions made up of weak members should have been heeded more. For it would have garnered the capacity to accomplish more which otherwise could have been impossible or at least far more difficult. Taking this argument to be rational, more commitment should have been rendered from members of AU than any other unions. Except for the strong nationalistic and pan-African fervor in the earlier times of the union, this was not the case for the greater part of the union’s half century’s existence.
It might give a misleading idea to count the number of years the union has endure, to the extent of claiming the union to be resilient. The resilience of an organization, and especially a regional or continental organization like that of the African Union, can only be measured by how adaptive and flexible it is to address important issues across time. Hence, this fact makes it indispensable for them to constantly revise their objective, laws and focus as per the needs of the context in which they exist. The failure in this regard stands at the center of the inherent problem the AU has and that leads it to impotency. This has made the AU, as it has always been, an organization based on sentiments and hollow wishes.
The urgent need for African Union is therefore not new headquarters, a new vision and commitment towards the challenges of utmost importance for African people, which the union so far has failed to deliver. Since commitment entails sacrifices, members should also be ready to make all the sacrifices needed for a stronger union that will ultimately be able to lead Africa out of the pervasive poverty, lawlessness, and injustices. A union that will stand up for its member states and African people, one that won’t keep quiet when flagrant injustices, like those that happened at the site of the new headquarters, are committed. Sure, it is not a history the AU is proud of, but now we’d better not forget about all that if we want to imagine the future of the continent and the union’s role in it.