Africa Day 2015: From the OAU back to the OAU?

By Désiré Assogbavi (See also French Version on my blog)

Africa Day is celebrated every year on 25th May. It marks the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on 25th May 1963. On this day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed the founding charter of the OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2002 the OAU was formally replaced by the African Union (AU).

While the main objectives of the OAU were to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid and to promote unity and solidarity among African States, the new African Union aimed for “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena”.

We can then conclude that the OAU has reached its main objectives by ensuring full political independence of the continent and contributing to eliminate apartheid in South Africa. Frankly speaking, the OAU was never about democracy or citizens’ participation. OAU was an organization of African leaders, the majority of which took the power by political struggle or by force.

During the Lomé Summit of the African Union in 2000, when the new Constitutive Act of the AU was adopted, as the Head of Civic Education Division of the Togo National “Radio Lomé”, I broadcasted a radio show titled “from the OAU of Heads of States to the AU of Citizens”. I can remember the excitement and the big hope of African Citizens to be part of a new continental organization that aims to pave the road for human security, prosperity, development etc. and play a role within it.

How are the African Union and its member states doing since the AU was put in place in 2002 to bring prosperity, peace security, democracy and human right in our continent? Are citizens genuinely given the chance to fully participate? Are we observing or implementing key principles that will secure a democratic Africa, respectful of human and people rights, and, unlock potential for development?   Are we managing responsibly our human and natural resources for the benefit of the continent and it people?

Today When I look at Burundi, DRC, Togo, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya, Cameroun, Gambia… just to mention some, my question is the following: 15 years after the Lomé Declaration, did we really and genuinely move from the OAU to the AU? Or we are still turning around the OAU practices?

When I remember that 40,000 African citizens perished in the Mediterranean Sea over the last 15 years (2000 died since January 2015) trying to run away from the continent, I wonder if our leaders are really proud of themselves .

When I see the Burundian President playing football publically with his friends at a time more than 110,000 of his citizens including unaccompanied children are struggling in the mountains  to find refuge in neighboring countries, running away from persecution… and, when protest was going on, police shooting real bullets and opposition leaders being killed in the city… my question is: Is this the Africa we want for the 21st century?

34 out of the 54 African Countries as called “Least Developed Countries” within a very rich continent when at least 1 billion USD is illegally taken out of the continent every day trough illicit financial flows by multinationals with the conspiracy of their host countries and of course our own leadership.

Africa is said to possess over 90% of the world’s chrome resources, 85% of its platinum, 70% of its tantalite, 68% of its cobalt, 54% of its gold plus significant oil and gas reserves. The continent is also home to uranium, manganese, diamonds, phosphate and bauxite deposits in very high quantities. Timber and other forests resources add to the lure including massive underground water reserves discovered in some of the driest parts of the continent.

Overall, when I observe the silence and the hesitation of our regional and pan African institutions to speak out and take concrete actions, I feel terribly sad embarrassed and revolted….

Africa Day 2015 should be a moment of continental reflection…25th May is observed as a public holiday only in five African countries: Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It should be a Continental Reflection and Action Day.

The upcoming Heads of States AU Summit to be held in South Africa in a few weeks is an opportunity for the our Presidents to examine their responsibilities and take bold decisions

This year and the coming year (2016: Years of Human Rights) should be the years of a new revolution of African Citizens. Partners within the continent and around the world must strongly support active citizenship including actions to claim and obtain accountability from power holders and the implementation of our agreed Shared values. Without this, our Agenda 2063 will be an empty document and a pure lie for the future generation.

I strongly believe that if governance system is improved in the continent, the African Union and its regional communities start playing their role fully and genuinely by pressurizing national power holders according to the adopted principles, frameworks, treaties and conventions; if citizens including the youth are mobilized with solidarity to claim accountability… we will see a better continent in a few years…    

Disclaimer: My opinions are absolutely personal and do not engage my organization.

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