In May this year, the continent celebrated 50 years of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ceremony was graced by activists, intellectuals, political and business leaders whose speeches focused on the journey travelled, and also elaborated on the vision ahead for Africa to claim its rightful place on global economic and political platforms.
As expected, there were reflections on the past paralyzing events such as colonialism, apartheid, civil wars and genocide that severely affected the continent, but there was also genuine recognition that many outstanding challenges of socio-economic and political nature still remain.
There is a shift in the mindset of most leaders from the usual outright denial of responsibility to the actual admission that the notion of Pan-Africanism liberation and the struggle for African Unity are incomplete.
The year 1994 was marked by two contrasting events. On one hand, the continent was witnessing the dramatic fall of the Apartheid in South Africa, and the most sophisticated genocide in Rwanda on the other. It is within this environment that new ideas of liberation were placed on the agenda for Africa.
Was this a great awakening for the global consciousness? One cannot possibly ascertain that because the global indifference remains at its peak, but certainly for Africa as the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda lingers in the conscious of so many.
The celebrations in Addis Ababa renewed the vigour to focus on issues of social and economic transformation in Africa, and this was so evident from African leaders whose speeches highlighted the need for unity in vision and unity in action.
Not to read too much into political discourse, the truth of the matter is that the public display of unity is part of diplomatic practice and this is expected at such gathering of huge symbolic importance.
Do African leaders agree on the scale of challenges the continent faces? Most probably, yes. They should also see endless opportunities available to face the future on the same way. Are they all pan-African enough to work together in finding solutions?
Well, this is where it gets interesting but for the purpose of this article, one is unable to develop the area any further as it would take time. Thankfully, Africa has seen a renaissance at least over the last decade; and the leadership has been on the mend by (i.e. getting rid of personality cult politics, refocusing energy on unity and development, renewing vision on integration and re-arranging strategic alliances and relationships).
In a light of perceived economic boom and a relative decline in war, famine and disease, the narrative in the Western media is changing; hence the gold rush by the so called ‘investors’ and the renaming the once called ‘hopeless continent’ to the ‘continent of hope’.
Given this Africa’s hard-earned economic and political stability, the crucial question about the renewed interest by the existing and emerging powers of the Americas, Asia and Europe should be whether or not the old tactics of dividing Africa have ceased to apply.
What about the new and less flamboyant clients with insistence on things such as ‘‘order loving’ and ‘no political interference’? Can they hide their aspiration to become a superpower and strategy to use Africa’s resources for that end?
There are more exciting things going on in Africa right now and ordinary Africans ought to know the reshaping of their continent’s map. Perhaps, one is overly cautious over this changing environment and Africa’s ability and commitment to manage this transition, as political realities on the ground show that old habits die hard.
Africa remains a fertile ground for foreign exploits and spoilers are relentlessly hovering around in order to hamper the limited progress, while expanding their spheres of influence and serving their national interests.
Disguising one’s intentions under slogans cannot and should not fool anybody in 2013. Carrying placards of humanitarian intervention by the United Nations and the so called international community in one hand, while promoting directly or indirectly human suffering is totally immoral and unethical.
The case in point is the Great Lakes region which bears witness to unacceptable proxy war whereby both foreign and regional powers flex their muscles, play politics, bargain for cheaper deals in natural resources and the blood of innocent and often voiceless are spilled in the name of perceived geostrategic interests.
Admittedly, one is less knowledgeable on how African leaders define their own interests and this is not wilful ignorance, but an interpretation of the reality that most leaders in Africa are subservient and toe the line of their old exploitation master.
The 50th anniversary in Addis Ababa was about reflecting on African Unity but incidentally, it was also a platform from which a major disagreement broke out between Tanzania and Rwanda’s leadership on how to deal with the Rwandan genocidal and armed group, the FDLR.
This is the group among many that has caused havoc in the eastern DRC and whose imaginary Rwanda is one that is Tutsi-free. Why wasn’t the pan-Africanism spirit in the air-conditioned room?
In concluding, whatever the limitations of this African Unity’s dream, the African leadership has woken up to the reality that they ought to up their game as the world’s geostrategic map is rapidly changing.
Despite many positive forecasts (i.e. IMF, 2012) that 7 out 10 fastest growing economies will be African, the bad news is that these figures alone cannot amount to anything substantive unless Africans own their vision and destiny by avoiding the trap set by unscrupulous foreign forces.
Allow African leaders to take a driving seat in finding peace in the DRC, Mali, Sudan and Somalia; as well as building fragile peace in Ivory Coast, CAR and others not only in operational capacity, but also in strategic and decision making processes.
The era of failed Africa narrative is over and the world is at the dawn of a new international order. Is African Unity posing a challenge to the contemporary global order?