The overall objective of the AU is to expedite the process of economic and political integration in the continent. Its vision can be summarized in the following points:
– the AU is Africa’s premier institution and principal organization for the promotion of the accelerated socio-economic integration of the continent which will lead to greater unity and solidarity between African countries and peoples.
– The AU is based on the common vision of a united and strong Africa and on the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular, women, youths, and the private sector, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among the peoples of Africa.
– The AU focuses on promoting peace, security, and stability on the continent as a prerequisite to implement the development and integration agenda of the Union.
What has the AU achieved so far?
Since the Lusaka Summit some decisions on the transition from the OAU to the AU have made progress, for instance:
– the transfer of assets and liabilities from the OAU to the AU.
– The finalization of the protocol on the pan-African Parliament.
– The preparation of the Court of Justice statutes.
– The preparation and adoption of legal instruments to launch the four main AU organs – Assembly, Executive Committee, Commission, and Permanent Representative Committee.
– The AU has also played a pivotal role in resolving conflicts. Although giving more power to regional blocs such as the South African Development Community (SADC), CEMAC, and ECOWAS on issues of conflict resolution, the organization should be commended for taking the lead by monitoring situations where these regional blocs are resolving conflicts. In the Zimbabwe crisis after the bloody 2008 presidential run-off elections, the AU played a crucial role in a bid to restore calm in that southern African country. SADC did not give itself a role of mediator – when the matter of Zimbabwe was referred to the AU at its Sharm el-Sheik (Egypt) Summit in June 2008, 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 the then South African president, Thabo Mbeki, as chief mediator.
– The AU sends observers to oversee elections in member countries – a giant step towards ensuring democracy.
– AU’s efforts towards economic cooperation should also be commended. It is the organisation’s vision towards the cooperation of the third world that brought about the Preferential Trade Area for East and Southern Africa, established in 1981. It was however replaced by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in December 1994. This same vision led to establishing African financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the PTA Bank, and the African Export-Import Bank. These are responsible for spearheading development projects and bailing out African financial institutions.
However, while copying the EU, AU leaders are divided, and have fallen into the same trap as the OAU by adopting non-interference in the internal affairs of member States. When they take action, the AU drags its feet to reach a compromise. For instance, Sudan is continuously terrorising the newly independent south. Darfur has of late declared war against the South, yet the AU watches like a toothless bulldog. In Libya, 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 and shameful killing of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and thousands of civilians. To date, the AU has not made any formal statement on the killing.
In addition, most African leaders have been criticised for lacking the will to support structures and organizations they had put in place pursuing shared and agreed African objectives. For example, the Pan African News Agency (PANA) is barely limping. This is partly due to poverty, resulting in a lack of structures, both concrete and ideological, that function to ensure social continuity. African States hardly pay their dues to run the AU. This also translates to inadequate mechanisms to share the costs and benefits of regional arrangements.
The lack of good governance and rule of law coupled with corruption and debilitating civil wars and armed conflicts is another hindrance to the AU’s rapid success of integration. Yet another weakness is the non-inclusion of the civil society in the planning process and in key policy papers. Little has been done in terms of mass mobilization. The AU evolves as a product of political engineering, championed by Libya. There is no organizational harmony among sub-regional groupings in Africa, posing a great threat to the success of the AU integration project. Political affiliations, language barriers, and suspicion among AU member States delay integration.
Finally, notwithstanding all the difficulties, it is important that all Africans wake up and support the pan-African movement. One major challenge is to address the leadership question. With legitimate, charismatic, and visionary AU leaders the integration process will cost Africans less. This is our collective challenge.
Mukete Tahle Itoe