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 escaped 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 the United States of Africa is realized it will be a milestone for many who want to see a united Africa with a common foreign policy, trade policy, common agricultural policy, common environment, immigration and economic policy. There are many sceptics who doubt Africa’s ability to achieve unity because of the differences in language, religion, and traditional or cultural practices among our peoples as well as the various types of political systems currently evidence in Africa: monarchies, democracies and autocracies; the huge size of the continent, the high level of illiteracy, wide infrastructural gaps and different levels of poverty, however if we put the interest of the continent and its people first I am convinced these challenges can be solved no matter how difficult they are.
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. We all 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 economic 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 considering the needs of the people. We must unite as one people if we are to guarantee the future survival of our continent, its people, its resources and its culture. 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 because of disunity, we have had our resources looted by foreigners because of disunity, 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 not united. 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 T. Washington resonated with me. There were skills we needed and black people outside Africa had them. I gave our US Ambassador the specific job of recruiting skilled Africans from the US Diaspora. A few came. 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.
There are many African leaders who are dragging their feet and are drowning the Africa Union initiative. Such leaders are only interested in the power and titles that they have in their own countries. They are not asking the hard question as to why Europe is uniting and what will it be for Africa if we are not united. They are not asking why Mexico, US and Canada are uniting to form the North American Union and why US is seeking to establish military bases in Africa through the Africa Command (AFRICOM) project. All these countries are strategising for the next phase of global politics which will centre on who controls what vital resources and in which area. This underscores the reason why US is seeking military bases in Africa to protect her interest and to ensure that its resource needs are met at all cost. How will a small country like Gabon respond if her oil becomes a target of US occupation? Does Equatorial Guinea have the military capability to withstand an all out invasion by Europe if they decide to take her resources by force as America has done in Iraq?
The shortage of resources in Europe and America and its abundance in Africa means in the near future Africa is going to be a battle ground for these countries for the control of the resources. US has projected that by the end the next decade 85% of its oil needs must come from Africa. China too wants Africa’s oil. India wants it and the EU is not staying idle either. How is the US going to ensure that the 85% target is met don’t you think her Africom project makes sense? How do we respond if we are not united? How do we ensure that Western countries will not exploit our weak and insignificant countries for their own advantage?
Currently there are signs that Africa is going to be a battle ground between Europe, US, China and Russia. All of them are vying for control and influence in Africa. It may get very nasty: it may mean wars; it may mean supporting dictators; it may mean coups in resource rich countries; it may mean civil wars; it may mean assassinations; blackmail and arm twisting all of them tools used by these super powers during the cold war. What are we going to do in the face of these threats if we continue to stick to our insignificant countries? Don’t we also need these resources ourselves and what are we going to do to protect them if we are not united?
There is strength in unity and that is why Europe is uniting, that is why North American countries are uniting.
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 easier 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. Fearful of what Africa could achieve if united, Europe under the leadership of France (one of the beneficiaries of Africa’s 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.
“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”.–www.livemint.com, 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,” The same secrecy and hidden agenda surround America’s Africom. It can never be about any other thing other than the exploitation of African resources and keeping Africa and Africans at the bottom of the world development ladder.
We must fight this divide and rule policies if we are ever going to make it as a continent and as a people. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia can never be called Europe and will never be accepted as such by Europeans no matter what French president 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. We must be very wary of US, Europe, China, Russia and their intentions.
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.
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 divide and rule policies of Europe. It has the advantage of ending 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 in 2009 over the Migingo Island in Lake Victoria. Unity will end the Yumbe border dispute between Uganda and Sudan; it will end the Katuna and Mutukula border area dispute between Rwanda and 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. It will end the border dispute between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Unity will enable us to speak with one voice, deal with Europe, America, China, Russia and India through the government that will represent us all. We can harness the resources in Africa for the good of all us so that Niger, Mali, Rwanda, Ethiopia and other resource poor countries will not have to go to war before having access to the resources 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 United States 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 and not as Anglophone and Francophone. We must think as Africans not as Muslims or Christians We are all God’s children. We are all Africans and Africa is our home and we must all work to protect its people, its cultures, its peace, its stability its economy, its democracy, and above all its unity not only for ourselves but for our children’s children. These divisions and categorisations only serve France and Britain’s interest not us. These categorisations have been exploited by those who want to see Africans poor. Those who for centuries manipulated, exploited our resources, imprisoned our leaders, overthrew our governments and assassinated our leaders and 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.
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, Kenya or Tanzania, South Africa or Ghana but Africa. If we think as Africans and work together we can accomplish a lot for our peoples.
The European Union worked because Germany, France, Britain and the political leadership made huge sacrifices. Therefore some countries must make economic and political sacrifices if we are to realise the US-Africa. South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Kenya, DRC, Botswana, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola must make political commitment to bring peace and stability in Africa. The unity of Africa depends on the cooperation and the sacrifices of these countries.
We must recognise that 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 fifty countries from Africa. If we want to change this unfavourable balance of power, take the destiny of Africa into our own hands, protect its people and its resources from external exploitation and develop the economy to benefit its people then we have no option than to unite.
Lord Aikins Adusei is a Political Activist and Anti-Corruption campaigner