Thirty-six years after the OAU was founded, Africans have yielded to the evidence: without political integration, the continent will not be saved.
For a long time a taboo subject, the project for a United States of Africa was first mooted in a pan-African meeting in Cairo in 1960, by Kwame Nkrumah. He is the father of the ‘radicals’. Julius Nyerere, who argued to first build regional blocs and then improve on these to create the United States of Africa, represents the doyen of the ‘gradualists’.
The debate returned to the forefront of the African stage in recent years. Credit for this goes to the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who, at the 4th extraordinary Summit of the OAU, called on his initiative on 9 September 1999 in Sirte, proposed to create the African Union. The Sirte Declaration adopted on this occasion highlights the need for Africa to ‘adapt to social, political, and economic change taking place both inside and outside our continent.’ It made particular reference to the ideals which have guided ‘generations of pan-Africanists in their determination to forge unity, solidarity, and cohesion between the peoples of Africa and between the African Nations’. The pan-African doctrine had just regained the place it deserves in forming a viable destiny for Africa.
The founding Charter of the African Union, adopted at the 36th OAU Summit on 11 July 2000, thus confirms the historic and qualitative change in the approach of African regionalism. The Union represents a desire for political integration following the recognition of the failure of cooperation, which revealed its limits. Creating the African Union is therefore an initial step towards the United States of Africa.
To hasten the process, the Abuja Summit of January 2005 formed a Committee of seven heads of State to study the Libyan proposals. President Yoweri Museveni chaired the leaders from Botswana, Niger, Uganda, Chad, Tunisia, Senegal, the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the President of the AU Commission. They mentioned in particular:
– abolishing customs tariffs between African countries;
– setting up an embryonic continental government creating Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Trade, and Transport and Infrastructures.
Unfortunately, little progress was made.
At the Sirte Summit of July 2005, the Committee, with a different membership (Algeria, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Uganda and Senegal), resumed its work under President Olusegun Obansanjo of Nigeria, another fervent pan-African supporter. After a series of consultations, including with civil society and intellectuals, the Committee submitted a report to the Union’s 7th Summit in July entitled ‘Study on an African Union Government towards the United States of Africa.’ It included a roadmap to help to reach this final objective by 2009. At Banjul, the Summit took note of the report and postponed examining its contents to an extraordinary session of the Executive Council so the ordinary Summit of January 2007 could make a decision on how to pursue the issue. Following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the plans for the United States of Africa are now at the centre of discussions, both among supporters and opponents. (M.T.I.)