Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Unity plan lacks fundamentals in Africa

February 3, 2009

At their latest summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the African Union has launched yet another grand project — basically aimed at establishing a continental government crafted in the formula of the United States of America.

On the face of it, this should a project whose time has come and whose spirit is in tandem with a rapidly globalising world.

In a world where competition has gone global and the size of the economy of each competitor matters most, going regional is certainly critical to Africa’s survival.

But that is only until you get into the details.

A look into the structure of the whole project; the driving force behind it, the principles and the personalities behind it shows that it has all began on a wrong footing.

The latest push for a single African government is the brainchild of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — he who bears the dubious distinction of being one of the longest serving presidents on the continent.

And he has repeatedly advised his friends like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to forget about the ideals of democracy and get into lifelong terms in office.

His country Libya is in the list of countries that are not known for upholding key principles of contemporary government.

Indeed there have been numerous reports of Africans who are not of Arab descent being mistreated in Libya, subjected to racial discrimination and often expelled.

On the other important front of trade and investment, Libya is only known to most Africans as a rogue investor.

It refuses to play by the rules and often peddles political and monetary influence to achieve its objectives. Recent events in Kenya involving Libyan investments in Grand Regency and their bid for a stake in the Mombasa refinery are clear examples.

Regional blocs

On principles, the going is unlikely to be any better. Africa has a number of regional trading blocs such as Sadc, Ecowas and Comesa that should form the building blocks for a project of this magnitude.

The truth is that progress in most of these trading blocs has and continues to be undermined by a wide range of challenges including military coups, misplaced nationalism and lack of cooperation.

Thus in most of these blocs you have rogue leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, rogue states like Sudan and coup makers like Guinea.

With the distance among players on key issues such as type and principles of government, how to choose leaders and what to unite on, the question that many Africans would want Gaddafi to answer is the objective for which he is seeking unity.