Political integration and the question of retention of sovereign State rights were troubling questions for some states. Some argued that the physical infrastructure to sustain a territorial jurisdiction did not exist. Others argued for an integrative system, where individual state expectations and political activities would shift towards a new centre, exercising jurisdiction over nation states.
Still others argued for the instituting of a federal union with a common identity and mutual obligations so that collective action can promote mutual interests. Two groups with differing ideological approaches emerged and divided the OAU. The Casablanca progressives led by Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Algeria, Congo, Mali Tanzania and Egypt favoured a political integration approach to regional cooperation and integration.
They believed that political integration was a prerequisite to economic integration and that a socialist agenda was the path to economic development. This institutional framework would be fashioned on a federalist model.
The Monrovia conservative group represented by Nigeria, Liberia and many of the French-speaking Afrikan countries, whose economies were still fragile, believed in a functional approach to Afrikan cooperation, but on a gradual basis of progression. While both approaches were intended to destroy any remnants of colonialism and apartheid on the continent, the division resulted in the delayed strategies for moving forward and placed a hold on a federalist model for the continent.
Despite these differences there were shared historical features among nation states that related to slavery, colonialism and imperialism, all of whom had found themselves in a world economic order which they did not design and over which they had no control. Embracing Pan-Afrikanism meant finding grounds for cooperation.
Under the auspices of Gaddafi, the OAU – which was established to foster regional cooperation and integration and allow leaders from the continent to discuss and resolve problems common to Afrika – gave way to the AU or Afrikan Union in 2002. It was a change necessitated by the changing political, social and economic landscape of Afrika and the rest of the world.
It was a new response and approach to Afrika’s overall security; one that provided a legal and institutional framework for enhancing unity and strengthening cooperation and co-ordination while seeking to accelerate economic and political integration of the regional bloc. The goals were to unify Afrikans on the continent and in the Diaspora and more importantly to develop political structures that would ensure sustainable development, peace, security, growth, democracy and the transformation of Afrika as a whole.
Developing on the work of the OAU, the AU in association with the newly developed NEPAD, (New Partnership for Afrikan Development) and the previously established AEC, (Afrikan Economic Community) created a paradigm shift aimed at political and economic reforms designed to end poverty and under-development, deepen democracy and economic governance, and pioneer a new partnership relationship with the rest of the developed world.
Unlike the OAU, which was paralysed by a myopic interpretation of sovereignty and territorial integrity based on a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, the AU mandated the right to intervene in member states to restore peace and stability, to prevent genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Alongside these powers it also held the power to exclude member governments from its activities. This move by the AU towards political, social, economic and cultural solidarity created what was in effect a more effective and efficient way of instituting a United States of Afrika. It would be a restructured Afrika, based on collective self-reliance with an integrated economic, social and political authority that would transform the socio-political, socio-economic structures of the Afrikan states.
Pan-Afrikanists had conceptualised and instituted a political and cultural ideological and pragmatic framework for reversing the racist supremacist atrocities perpetrated against Afrika and the Afrikan people; one that would replace the false narrative that dangerously infested the mind-set of many Afrikans and which had predisposed them to several iniquitous forms of self-destructive behaviour. It was a revolutionary strategy that took on an evolutionary nature intended to restore power and control of Afrika’s destiny back to Afrika and the Afrikan people.
Afrika’s and Afrikans historical legacies were challenges that needed to be gradually and successfully negotiated. The continent is a large land mass with divergent religious and cultural beliefs and practices that do not lend easily to cohesion. It had been disembodied and controlled by foreign aggressors who had implanted stringent alien mechanisms for sustaining power and control.
The geographical landmass of individual states differed in size, as well as the population of each state. This was also true of the type and quantities of natural resources each state possessed, where structural deficiencies and limited product diversification were all key determining factors within the structural adjustment framework. Issues of influence and individual state sovereignty opened up areas of controversy over individual and state power.
Chronic internal conflicts and coups instigated an anarchist environment in some Afrikan states, created power vacuums that were exploited, resulted in bloody ethnic and religious rivalries and instigated the greatest refugee crisis within the region. Afrikans started fleeing further afield to Europe where they are forced to endure oppressive practices. There is some conjecture that agents of colonial oppression, (both within and outside of Afrika) resistant to Afrikan unification have been instrumental in instigating these conflicts that continue to destroy Afrikan lives and dismantle structures for developing Afrika. These are seen as part of a wider criminal and more sinister agenda by some Arabs, Europeans and their allies to frustrate the Pan-Afrikanist agenda.
One may well ask how much progress has been made in realising the vision for Afrika, and if not yet realised what is needed for its fulfilment. It is important to understand that imperialism had inflicted negative values and practices on Afrikan countries, which were unfortunately embraced by Afrikans after independence.
These were reflected in the continuance of resource exploitation, consumerism and materialism evident in those countries, in ethnic and sectarian violence, in low life-expectancy, in the spread of life threatening diseases, in a rapidly expanded young population, in famine and in the linguistic demographics within Central Africa, the Horn of Afrika, North Afrika, Southeast Afrika, Southern Afrika and West Afrika.
Despite these apparent setbacks Afrikan leaders in various sectors were prepared to press ahead with the development of the Afrikan community by providing and empowering individuals and groups with knowledge, skills and expertise to develop their individual communities.
* Kilanji Bangarah is a Panafrikanist activist born in Jamaica, now an Afrikan returnee to mainland Afrika.