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Leaders Stall Again on United States of Africa

Final Call , News Analysis , Brian E. Muhammad Posted: Feb 19, 2009

(FinalCall.com) - In a closed door Feb. 2 session African leaders voted once again to go slow on moving the 53 nations of Africa toward a unified continental government. The issue was discussed as an agenda item at the African Unions (AU) 12th Ordinary Summit of heads of state and government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Feb.1-3, 2009.

The concept of a United States of Africa is a continuation of a vision rooted in the ideas of Pan-African thinkers from the 19th to early 20th centuries such as, Henry Sylvester Williams, a lawyer from Trinidad famous for calling the First Pan-African Congress held in London in 1900 and George Charles, president of the African Emigration Association, who declared to the U.S. Congress in 1886 that his organization planned to establish a United States of Africa.

The idea was further developed by Africas leaders and founding fathers of the original Organization of African Unity (OAU), in particular Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, independence leader and first president of Ghana.

The vision of a unified African government was carried over in the transformation of the OAU into the AU, driven forward almost a decade ago by Muammar Gadhafi, leader of the Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya. Mr. Gadhafi, who was elected the new chairman of the AU at 12th summit, is widely seen as the strongest advocate for a continental government among the heads of state.

The Libyan leaders election and the issue of integrating the continent under one government sparked a debate that led to an extension of the summit by an extra day.

I hope my term will be a time of serious work and not just words, Chairman Gadhafi said in his inaugural address to the leaders.

I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa, he said, acknowledging that African heads of state were not near to a settlement on the matter. We are still independent states. It is your decision to respond to the call for unity, to push Africa forward towards the United States of Africa.

However, supporters of the idea say an underlying reason for opposing a union government is the unwillingness of some leaders to subordinate individual state sovereignty to a collective African sovereignty. It appears they have forgotten that the territorial boundaries and borders of the continent werent by African design but were imposed by outside colonialists.

Some of these African leaders seem to be suffering from amnesia, as if the Berlin Conference of 1884when Europeans convened to regulate their carving up of Africa among themselveswas only fiction. It seems that some of the presidents will continue to stall under the guise of go slow, fearing how they will be affected by a federal system.

According to international observers, there is deep division on how to achieve the ambitious goal.

All African Peoples Liberation Party strategist Dedon Kamathi, talking to this writer during the The Sankofa Experience internet radio talk show, said the AU is divided between a conservative group and a revolutionary progressive group, primarily led by Chairman Gadhafi.

The conservative group argues that it is not time, we need to first look at regional integration on an economic level and from there, political integration. The other (school) sees the Kwame Nkrumah/Sekou Toure revolutionary analysis of seek ye first the political kingdom and all else will follow, said Mr. Kamathi.

According to BBC reports, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda advocated the idea of strengthening Africas regional bodies first. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was reportedly one of the strongest voices in opposition to a fast track solution for a United Africa.

At the end of the summit, the only agreement made on the issue was that the AU Commission will be expanded to become an Authority. Critics see this decision as a compromise to stall the process. In other words, the ball would be kicked into the long grass to slow it down.

According to the BBC online edition, Chairman Gadhafi said a special meeting of the groups Council of Ministers would convene in three months to establish what powers the newly created African Union Authority should have.

Chairman Gadhafi further said that he envisions a continent that relies on itself and which is a key player in world affairs. He added that the continent has adopted a step by step approach to this historic effort on a single government. AU Commission chairman Jean Ping said the whole process may take years.

Related Articles:

Political Leaders Moving Toward a United States of Africa

Justice Long Overdue in the Congo

Obama's Royal African Roots

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