AU: What has happened to the Pan-African vision?: Part One


AN important point which any serious observer is likely to notice about our continent is the sharp contrast between the African past of the 1950s, 60s and 70s and the current era!
That past had the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Sekou Toure, Kenneth Kaunda and others who spearheaded the African project to liberate the whole continent from the shackles of Western colonialism.
With hindsight that project generated an unprecedented sense of purpose and solidarity across the continent and a sense of identity based on the belief that all of us shared a common African destiny.
The positive outcome of that common purpose and solidarity which the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) enjoyed is that by 1994 the whole of Africa was free at last!
In sharp contrast, the current era symbolised by the African Union (AU) is turning out to be far less dramatic by way of its agenda and method, far less inspiring so far, notwithstanding the fact that the need to achieve continental unity strong enough to be a factor in how Africa interfaces with the rest of the world is even more critical and very urgent.
Failure to unite will get us all trampled upon once again by the same imperialist forces which descended upon Africa before!
Unlike the anti-colonial struggles which involved the presence of white characters and their looting systems as the targeted villains and black characters as the aggrieved victims questing for redemption, the business of building the AU is proving to be a far less dramatic exercise which has so far not generated the kind of emotional drama that dominated the era of liberation.
Whereas the anti-colonial drama demanded and indeed created heroes and heroines who dominated the African stage located both at the frontline and in the so-called world media, the process of building the AU has so far come across as a low-key painstaking process requiring meticulous skill and patience, more so a common vision and an unwavering sense of purpose!
Admittedly since its formation in 2002 the AU has put in place the necessary structures such as the Assembly, the Executive Council, Parliament, the Commission of the Union etc.- all designed to facilitate 54 countries to work together for the common good of all.
Also in the pipeline are The African Central Bank, The African Monetary Fund, The African Investment Bank.
In addition special technical committees to deal with trade, immigration, science etc are being set up gradually to promote integration at all levels one can think of.
In a metaphorical sense all these AU structures and institutions are part of the ‘hardware’ designed to promote unity and to harmonise the activities of what in practice is a huge and diverse continent!
What seems to be missing in all these structures purposefully designed to unite Africa is the relevant ‘software’ programme specifically meant to address our perceptions, dreams, ambitions, outlooks and perspectives vis-a-vis the African Union project itself!
Put differently, all what has been done so far, admirable and well-meant as it is, has overlooked those intangible but nevertheless real aspects which relate to our imagination as a people.
One of the advantages which the OAU had, but whose significance has been taken for granted by many is the role played by Nkrumah in firing up the imagination of a whole continent about the need for Africans to acquire independence and freedom.
He became the teacher, the prophet, the designer –cum- practitioner-all rolled into one!
In brief, Nkrumah relentlessly and in an inspiring manner delivered a vision to all of us, a vision which became a contagion and affected the likes of Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel, Augustino Neto and many others who subsequently toiled for the rest of their lives to turn that vision into reality.
In fact far too many died as well or got crippled along the way struggling to realise Nkrumah’s dream.
Millions of Africans felt compelled to make Nkrumah’s dream their own individual dream—that is how inspirational he was and this is why he has many followers in Africa up to this day!
In many ways Nkrumah’s dream or vision remains the same as that of the AU, but time has taken its toll and many generations since then have come and gone. New generations allergic to any serious reading have arrived and new ways have to be devised to recast that same vision and make it contemporary, one of a kind which resonates with the yearnings and ambitions of those current generations!
This task requires a new idiom of communication, a different way of inspiring a new generation blissfully unaware that a disunited Africa will inevitably fall prey to fortune hunters from the same familiar West!
As it is one senses that there is a serious gap between what the political leadership of the continent is doing in regard to the AU project and what the majority of ordinary folk are pre-occupied with; the AU project remains so dangerously remote and removed from the everyday world of the majority on the ground that it runs the risk of being regarded as an imposition instead of being treated an urgent priority without which Africa is bound to become more and more vulnerable to predators from outside!
In a way the indifference with which the majority regard AU matters is bound to prolong the process of integrating the whole continent.
A lot of questions are also being posed by that indifference, questions such as:
Why is a continental union necessary when all along we have done without it?
What type of Africa is the AU trying to build?
Is it meant to be a world super power like the United States, or powerful like the United States, but morally bankrupt a predator as the USA has become?
What are the dangers of Africa remaining divided as it is and from where and how?
How will a Union improve our everyday lives and in what form and how soon?
All these questions are an indication that no common vision has been birthed and communicated to ordinary men and women whose lives the AU is meant to improve and protect!
Surprisingly the same questions can be addressed at the educational level if only our curriculum designers all over Africa have the kind of imagination which people like Nkrumah had!
And here one is not talking about bigger budgets for education in Africa as the Second Decade of Education For Africa Plan of Action (2006-2015) is desperately trying to plead for before the so called development partners who happen to be our former colonisers!


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