United States of Africa should be the ultimate goal of regional groupings Moshood Abiola

Mbuso Ndhlovu – [email protected]

DESPITE the rapid pace of regionalisation, dreams of the nation state’s imminent demise are exaggerated. It is true that all African regions have coalesced into some organisation in one form or another but national leaders still wield so much personal power in decision making and will naturally not cede it to someone else. We are nowhere near the point where we would start putting regional ahead of national interests. As before, this year’s Africa Day commemoration will resurrect debate on whether a United States of Africa should be the ultimate goal of regional groupings. For since its birth as Organisation of African Unity, now simply African Union, we have been assured one Africa is the ultimate goal but it seems there is lack of political will.

While ordinary citizens do not really care who will be the federal president, it is the political elites who are concerned of such with each one of them unsure of what role they will play in a federal set-up. Late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at one time appeared to be the natural choice as he pushed for total unity of the continent. But his enthusiasm was shunned by some of his peers and his push for the continent to claim its place on the global arena suffered a stillbirth.

Moise Katumbi Chapwe

One can imagine discussions in the corridors at the African Union offices in Ethiopia. “Comrade, we have to stop Muammar by all means. He’s moving too fast. Did you see him on TV walking from Zambia to Zimbabwe greeting villagers, who does he think he is?”

While ordinary people cheered the North African leader wherever he was on the continent, political bureaucracy ensured that there would be slow movement, if any, towards unification.

Whereas a few like Gaddafi wanted immediate total unification just like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in the 1950s, some believed in taking slow steps through regional groupings such as the Economic Community of West African States, Southern African Development Community and East African Community.

Of these regional groups, the East African Community at first appeared to be moving fast towards one state. Made up of seven countries in the Great Lakes region of East Africa namely Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, DRC and new member South Sudan, the community is run from Arusha, Tanzania. Using the East African shilling as currency and with Swahili widely spoken in the region, it appears the East African Community is a potential precursor to the establishment of a single sovereign state, the East African Federation.

While ordinary people would not mind being one, in fact they cross borders on a daily basis to eke a living, it is the politicians who are throwing spanners in the works. They create and point out challenges that can ironically be solved through unity. For instance, it was felt that East Africa’s economic giant Kenya would dominate other member states with economic benefits of increased productive advantage skewed in its favour. Undeveloped infrastructure in South Sudan and Burundi for instance is often put forward as an excuse to delay total regional economic integration. One would like to think regional unity is meant to foster a spirit of oneness. All the people stand to benefit from one political and economic structure where no one would be riding roughshod over others. The benefits would be shared and enjoyed across the region, especially if the countries unite in one federal state as resources from one region will be spread to other regions without the cumbersome limitations of borders and duty.

But it is not the economy that is slowing down unification, it is the politics. Who will be the president of the new state? As citizens, we may not understand why politicians behave the way they do, especially when it comes to risking everything for power. Moshood Abiola who was among Africa’s richest people died in a Nigerian prison while fighting for presidency. DRC’s Moise Katumbi Chapwe, a wealthy politician and owner of one of Africa’s biggest soccer teams, TP Mazembe, is in exile as he was not satisfied with only being a regional governor.

He attracted the wrath of his political superiors by allegedly using unorthodox means and his immense wealth to unseat them.

Crazy isn’t it? You are the country’s richest man but you risk it all just for political pride and title! Certainly such politicians cannot be expected to push the African unity agenda when all they focus on is individual glory.

Bob Marley captured the despair among ordinary people for total unity when he sang Africa Unite. “How good and how pleasant it would be; Before God and man; To see the unification of all Africans; As it’s been said already; Let it be done; We are the children of the Rastaman; We are the children of the Iyaman.

So Africa unite; ‘Cause the children wanna come home; ‘Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon; And we’re grooving to our Father’s land.

Unite for the benefit of your people; Unite for it’s later than you think; Unite for the benefit of my children; Africa awaits its creators; Africa, you’re my forefather cornerstone; Unite for Africans abroad; Unite for the Africans a yard.”

Unfortunately, the dream of a united Africa seems far-fetched despite the strong yearning among its people of various nationalities. Unless we move from regional focus and direct all effort towards the bigger picture of one Africa, the prosperous motherland that African diaspora craves to return to in some imaginary exodus of biblical proportions may never happen. As Africans we have spent a long time discussing unity instead of walking the talk. Africa cannot afford all the bickering and war mongering while the rest of the world moves without us. It is now time to ignore politicians and fight for our place in the global economic sphere. Peace and social wellness, leaving no one and no place behind, will ultimately be possible if colonial boundaries and shackles are broken during our lifetime.

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