By Gbe Sneh
April 16, 2004
As the drums beat louder for an African Union, let it be known that while it is the sound that the people of Africa want to hear, the listening has to be one with a cautious enthusiasm. The OAU has run its cause with substantial failures. We, the people of Africa, hailed the ushering in of that organization, from its inception, as it embarked on liberating us from the political and economic bondage of colonialism and its vestiges. But the OAU was born in the late fifties! So, looking at the lot of the African today begs the question, "Did that organization bite off more than it could chew?" Yes, is the argument of many. And indeed, a strong case can be made for their position. The political liberation that the OAU sought was somehow attained only in superficial terms. The ordinary African today is still not free, he/she is still very poor, civil liberties might as well be some Greek or Latin phrase, unquestionably alien to the continent at large. The welfare of the people is clearly visible at the bottom of the poverty-pole. The people have been wailing since, only to be silenced intermittently with brute force across the continent, and held hostage by the "leaders" and their customary cronies.
Once again, the "leaders" have the full backing of the people. We all want an African Union. The never ending struggle to become free, politically and economically, has made a full circle. Not much is new, as we all know what the root causes of our problems are. The only thing new here is that there is an urgency this time around. The world is moving at such a high-tech speed than we in Africa can even dream of. Just imagine telling someone in any African village that today plants can be grown without soil, that you can speak to anyone in any part of the world, from anywhere in the world, that a blueprint is in place to colonize space. We know what the response will be - a broad smile lamenting how his own has failed him for so long.
Therefore, in an OPEN LETTER TO: Our Leaders Who Not So Long Ago Became
Signatories to the Sirte Agreement, let me express some of the basic
grievances of the African People.
1. First and foremost, know that you are servants of the people, and as such answerable to them.
2. The people have the power to remove you at the ballot box when you fail them.
3. Basic necessities of the people take precedence over your personal appetite for wealth.
4. You can no longer take the peoples' resources to buy guns only to be used in silencing the people.
5. Freedom of expression, especially of the press, the right to assemblage has to be restored.
6. Educate every child, attend to the sick, and take care of the aged.
7. Let everyone have an equal opportunity to live, express.
8. Let the rule of law prevail - from the Leader to the Army Chief to the little baby yet unborn.
9. Stop providing safe havens for murderers and exploiters of our people, sacrilegiously in the name of Pan-Africanism.
10. Honor Freedom of Worship.
We sincerely hope that under the new Continental Umbrella of an African Union, the common individual can finally have a venue that follows the rule of law to address his/her grievances. When he/she is HUNGRY and cries, let him/her have a place a find something to eat; when he/she is framed for TREASON, let him/her not have to run for dear life as the only recourse. As Africans, we know that it is a fallacy that the rule of law is alien to our community. An unacceptable fallacy, for we know that our forebears operated fervently under the rule of law, and not even the chief or king was above it. With this union then, let us reaffirm what was handed down to us, but was derailed in the colonial and post colonial periods due to nothing else but GREED. GREED of "leaders" outright, and GREED stemming from the leaders' self-serving acquiescence to global manipulations of our resources.
In the quest for an African Union, what is the urgency that is being
talked about here?
Collectively perceived by the rest of the world, the nations of Africa, like it or not, are pariah states. There are the notorious ones spearheading this distinction, and those operating under pretense. The notorious ones are the ones making the news daily for murders and exploitations of the people. This notoriety was at one time also tagged on virtually all Latin American countries, several Asian countries, and Caribbean’s countries. "Saludo Amigo", in the mid-sixties, read the title of an article on Latin American, featuring a cartoon depicting the Continent of South America saluting the Continent of Africa, for having led the way to revolutionary changes through military power on both continents. But, within the past two decades, the proof is there that these Latin American and Asian countries have made giant strides and have just about washed off the pariah status. The key to their successes? Plain and simple...to them, gone are the days of the strongman rule, supplanted by PEOPLES POWER.
Guess? Only African countries remain. Here once again the trail blazer finds itself at the beginning of the trail. Once the Genesis of Civilization, now the citadel of Barbarism. And once the Agitator of Change, now the Stagnation-Personified. The message here is clear. To gain respectability in the eyes of the world community, and for it to function properly, the African Union will have to uproot the strongman, often tyranny-driven mentality, and give the power back to the people where it belongs. As much as we want the union, we do indeed want it to the fullest extent. We are not looking forward to a union of African leaders looking out and covering up for one another. The union therefore, WILL NOT WORK UNTIL THE POWER TRULY RESTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE IT IS TO SERVE.
We, the people of Africa, along with the rest of the world are watching, and do recognize the urgency with which you are moved.
We do realize that never a day goes by in the journals of global trade when absent is some news of a FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (FTA) being made. During the infamous days of World Wars, the order of the times was the formation of entangling alliances to facilitate victories. The world still knows the powers of alliance formation. So, what we have today are the same entangling alliances in the global arena of trade. Today, if you took the map of the world and tried to draw lines connecting countries that have FTA's, you will find that not even the smartest spider can duplicate such an intricate web! We accordingly share our leaders' concern that the time is now, for without any unity, be it economy weighted, the Whole Continent of Africa will forever be relegated to its current global role. A CONTINENT OF CONSUMERS.
This letter might as well be dated in the early sixties.
So, if the African Union is to finally, honestly address the issues facing the people of Africa, then we should all proudly hail, LONG LIVE THE AFRICAN UNION!