The year 2023 marks the diamond jubilee of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), currently known as the African Union (AU), which was founded in Addis Ababa. The visionary founders, including President Kwame Nkrumah and Emperor Haile Selassie, aimed to bring about political change in African states and restore the dignity of African people, who had long suffered under colonial subjugation and disenfranchisement. Their vision encompassed a united Africa, free from oppression, governed by self-determination, and destined for prosperity.
Over time, the OAU transformed into the AU, with the intention of accelerating the dream of African unity and eradicating the social, political, and economic challenges that had begun to define African states. Pan-Africanism emerged as a beacon of hope, inspiring many who understood its significance at the organisation's inception. As we reflect on the ideals cherished by the founding fathers and reaffirmed by their successors in 2002, it is crucial to contemplate four of the seventeen aims articulated during the launch of the African Union in Durban.
Unity and solidarity between African countries and their people
Firstly, the AU aims to achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and their people. In pursuit of this goal, notable actions have been taken, such as the establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) to maintain peace in conflict zones such as Mali, Sudan, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Moreover, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AU set up the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) to facilitate the procurement and distribution of medical equipment and supplies throughout the continent. While these achievements are commendable, the majority of the other intentions under this aim lack a concrete plan of action, and the lack of sufficient funding is hampering progress. This presents a cause for concern.
Secondly, the AU pledged to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of its member states. Despite the development of intervention instruments to support this aim, the organisation has been found wanting at critical junctures. One cannot forget the adoption of Resolution 1973 by the United Nations Security Council, which authorised national governments or regional organisations to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, ultimately leading to the assassination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Colonel Gadhafi played a pivotal role in the formation of the African Union and declared his vision for the United States of Africa with a single government and one currency. Surprisingly, three AU member states – South Africa, Nigeria, and Gabon – voted in favour of this resolution. Their actions raised doubts about their commitment to defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of the AU.
Africa faces a harsh reality
Africa, a continent with immense potential for growth and development, faces a harsh reality that cannot be ignored. Its burgeoning population holds great promise for contributing significantly to its advancement. Additionally, Africa is blessed with abundant mineral resources, the prudent management of which could sustain the developmental aspirations of its people. Furthermore, Africa's expansive land mass and diverse climate present valuable opportunities to address crucial concerns such as food and energy security. It is perplexing that Africa, a continent three times the size of the United States of America, continues to lag behind in all aspects of development. The continent has enormous potential to foster growth and development and to compete on a global scale. Regrettably, it has thus far failed to harness this potential, leaving the dream of African prosperity, initially envisioned by the founders of the OAU (AU) and their successors, frustratingly out of reach.
As we commemorate the diamond jubilee of the OAU's establishment, let it serve as a reminder of the vision and determination of its founders. Their dreams for an Africa united, free from oppression, and governed by self-determination still resonate today. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that these dreams are no longer scuppered, but rather transformed into a vibrant reality of African prosperity.