African Union: an Overview

9 September 2016

The OAU was then transformed to AU in Sirte, Libya in 2001 with African leaders aiming to harmonize the economic and political policies of all African nations in order to improve pan-African welfare, and provide Africans with a solid voice in international affairs. The question today is: Has the AU achieved these objectives? To my view, there are lots of positives that can be pointed from the bloc, but I have pessimism that Africa will one day become a truly independent and united continent as were the dreams of the OAU founding fathers.

I am not surprised that some people are questioning the achievability of OAU founding fathers’ ideas. I do not want to liken pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, just to list a few, to the great philosopher, Karl Marx, whose ideas are a mere critique of the status quo but offering little practical solutions to societal problems. While the OAU achieved its endeavor to liberate other African states, it was deemed too weak in its bid to make the continent realize pan-African dreams.

African Union: an Overview Essay Example

The problem is lack of financial capacity due to the dependency theory [Africans depending on former colonizers on exploration of the continent’s resources] that has made the continent unable to transform itself into a truly independent block. The main problem though has been inability by African states to refuse to dance to the tune of the former colonizer’s ‘divide and rule tactics. ‘ As a result, divisions have rocked the continent to the extent that it is now difficult for African leaders to sing from the same hymn book in pursuit of pan-African objectives.

When the AU was then established, its supporters believed that it would have a stronger charter than the OAU, would be better funded, and would have the “teeth” that the OAU lacked, including the power to create a common African Parliament, a Central Bank, a common African currency and an International Court of Justice (Steinberg 2001). It was hoped that the AU would have the authority and ability to achieve economic and political integration among member states, as well as work towards a common defense, foreign and communications policy: national boundaries would be blurred, armies merged, and a single passport introduced (Ibid).

I dwell on the problems of the AU, let me start with their achievements first. The bloc has achieved a lot in uniting the continent. While the OAU’s major strength was its ability to decolonize the continent, the AU has a mandate to preserve that independence and advocate for peace. The continent has many areas where civil wars are raging, but the AU is doing a lot in trying to restore peace in those troubled spots. For example, the organization has peacekeepers in Somalia and Darfur to monitor situations in those areas.

First and foremost, the move from a Secretariat to a Commission is one of the major innovations of the AU Constitutive Act, embodying the will to make a qualitative jump forward towards more integration. The AUC has been conceived as a collegial institution independent from Member States, which has the competence to represent the Union. It also plays the role of coordination and harmonization of activities and of implementation of inter-African cooperation, which was previously carried out by intergovernmental institutions (the OAU Assembly and the Council of Ministers).

In certain policy areas, the Commission proved that it was in a position to offer real added value to Member States. The AU has also played a pivotal role in conflict resolution. Although giving more power to regional blocs such as the SADC and ECOWAS on issues of conflict resolution, the organization should be applauded for taking the lead and constantly monitoring situations where these regional blocs are resolving conflicts. In the Zimbabwe crisis after the 2008 presidential run-off elections, the AU played a crucial role in a bid to restore sanity in the Southern African country.

According to Cawthra (2010) SADC did not give itself any mediation role, but it was only when the matter of Zimbabwe was referred to the AU at its Sharm el-Sheik (Egypt) Summit in June 2008, that the AU directed that SADC be put in charge of mediating a solution to the crisis. SADC’s mandate thus came directly from the AU and in turn, at its 2008 Dar-es-Salaam conference, SADC appointed then South African president Thabo Mbeki as chief mediator. During elections in member countries, the AU sends observers to monitor, something which is a giant step towards ensuring democracy.

AU’s efforts towards economic cooperation should also be commended. It is the organization’s vision towards the cooperation of the third world that brought about the Preferential Trade Area for East and Southern Africa. The organization was established in 1981 with the objective of increasing economic and commercial cooperation between member states, harmonizing tariffs, and reducing trade barriers, with the eventual aim of creating a common market. It was however replaced by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in December 1994.

This same vision led to the establishment of African financial institutions such as the African Development Bank, the PTA Bank as well as the African Export-Import Bank. These banks are responsible for spearheading development in the continent by funding developmental projects as well as bailing out African financial institutions. In Zimbabwe for example, the African Export-Import Bank reportedly bailed out the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) by providing US$80 million for the central bank to resume its lender of last resort role and improve liquidity on the market (The Standard, Saturday 28 January 2012).

To date, the bank offers the African Trade Expansion and Diversification Scheme as well as the African Development Scheme. The list provided hereafter is not exhaustive, but gives an idea of some major achievements to which the African Union Commission (AUC) contributed: * Development of a vision for the AU up to 2015 [See Strategic Plan of the African Union Commission, Vol.

Partly due to the presence of a popular impulse towards unification, the architects of the AU have sought a blueprint inspired by the strongest, ambitious, and most effective model of regional identification that exists to date, namely the European Union (EU). As a result, the AU adopted and developed a modern system of collective security architecture with complex structures, fancy ideas, embedded in up to date human security principles, values, and norms. In this regard, Africa has no more poverty of ideas. But it lacks real capacity (Ibid).

While emulating the EU is to be commended, AU leaders are divided, and have fallen into the same pit as the OAU by adopting the culture of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. Not that I am advocating for the infringement of a country’s right to sovereignty, but I am saying the AU should at least make its resolutions binding in order to solve political problems on the continent. For example, while the bloc condemned the coup in Madagascar in 2009, the AU seems powerless to force now President Andry Rajoelina out or at least make him agree to a transitional arrangement with ousted leader, Mac Ravalomanana. I am pained that despite propositions to solving the crisis, former president Ravalomanana is still in exile and is not allowed back in his country. There is no doubt that this political instability will definitely affect the economic performance of Madagascar by chasing away investors, a development that is a slap on the face of the AU, whose mandate is to lead in both political and economic emancipation of the continent.

If it ever takes action, the AU drags its feet in reaching a compromise and come up with a lasting solution to a crisis. Currently, the bloc is being reduced to a toothless bulldog as Sudan is continuously terrorizing the newly independent South. Darfur has of late declared war against the South. In Libya for example, the AU was not able to resolve the crisis until western nations invaded the oil-rich nation, in a war that led to the brutal killing of Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi and thousands of civilians.

Given all these weaknesses, the Current Analyst (2010) argues that the AU project remains largely based on governments whose immediate priority is to preserve their national sovereignty, not to pool it. In addition to this, most African leaders have been criticized for lacking the will to support structures and organizations they have established in pursuit of African objectives. Taking the case of the Pan African News Agency (PANA) as an example, it is a pity to note that continent’s news agency is reeling under financial woes that the project is no longer as viable as it was intended to be.

AU leaders’ inability to unite the whole continent due to political disparities was evident when Morocco withdrew from the OAU in November 1984 to protest the illegal admission of the self-proclaimed SADR which claims the independence of its southern provinces retrieved by Morocco in 1975 under a tripartite agreement with Spain, the former colonial power. In July 2001 Morocco stated that it will not adhere to the AU, for it has repeated the same error as the OAU, when it allowed the SADR to sign on despite its lack of any international recognition.

Morocco is a leading country in the continent, and some claim the AU cannot do without it. If African leaders were united, they should have managed to recall Morocco back into the organization. Absolute unity of the continent is also being threatened by economic disparities among member states. Most countries are poverty-stricken and have no capacity to support the implementation of the AU vision. This means that from the start, poverty and lack of technology make it impossible for the continent to implement its resolutions.

As a result, ideas of unity and development remain mere outbursts of wishful thinking. This is the major weakness of Africa, which has been capitalized by the former colonizers to further divide the continent. Western nations want to continue exploiting the continent’s resources and as such, they use funding as a tool to make African leaders dance to their tune. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has always been so critical of the donor community, saying it is the one responsible for disunity among African heads of state sitting in the AU.

There is no doubt that due to imperialist forces and the dependency syndrome, the AU is divided and cannot work for the common good of the continent as was the dream of the founding fathers. For instance, while other countries such as Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire were quick to recognize Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) after the fall of Gadaffi, other African leaders like Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, were against this move. President Mugabe was on record condemning this move, together with the invitation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a guest to the AU Summit (ZBC, 30 January 2012).

As a result President Mugabe said Africa is in danger of re-colonization. CHAPTER FOUR PROSPECTS OF AFRICAN UNION With all these problems bedeviling the continent, I believe that it will be difficult for Africa to fight imperialism as a single unit. This is due to the fact that most of the African leaders are seemingly divorcing themselves more and more from the continent’s values and views, thus making Pan-Africanism become indeed a dying institution. I therefore advocate for an African re-awakening, whereby pan-Africanism is incorporated into our education systems by being made a subject just like Geography and Science.

This is the only way to go as African values are becoming remote in most youths of the continent, who are continuously spoon-fed with Western culture to the extent that they are forgetting their history Way Forward To keep these hopes of a peaceful and stable Africa, the AU through its PSC should work on some practical issues, some of which are: strengthening the unity among the African states so as to form a strong bargaining force to push for UN Security Council reform, AU walking its talk in implementing what it plans as support to the AU-PSC, and greater capacity building of the actors involved in the maintenance of peace.

There is a pertinent need for good and visionary leadership that can push an African agenda in world politics; questioning and interrogating international influence relative to the AU, as well as a need for building and consolidating democratic practices, the peaceful transfer of power and respect for human rights, as well as giving attention to traditional conflict resolution mechanisms instead of solely adopting and implementing European models of conflict resolution, and being ready to commit the financial resources necessary to undertake the task of maintaining peace in Africa.

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