African Union Golden Jubilee: Going Back to the Basics

African Union
The African Union building was financed by China

AFRICANGLOBE – A celebration usually tells the story that accompanies pomp and ceremony associated with such occasions. The same is bound to manifest when the now African Union (AU) formerly known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), celebrates is Golden Jubilee.

50 years on, Africa has to sit back and take a deep introspection on what the organisation has stood for and promoted. As the audiences takes a look at the backdrop of the Golden Jubilee commemorations, there certainly will be many fingers pointing at gaps that the continental body has not filled, is yet to fill or has failed to fill.

Arguments on how to arrive at achieving goals and maintaining the fiber of Pan Africanism obviously play out to a majority of the continent’s citizens and those looking from beyond Africa. The continental gallery provides interesting observations in that regard too. Three have been fewer and fewer voices calling for a re-awakening of the Pan African spirit.

The most notable voice that has been the last man standing for principle is the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Mugabe. That many voices have been silent should come as no surprise too. Who said the majority echo the true sentiments?  President Mugabe’s calls that Africa goes back to basics must be the cry and theme of any right thinking African who looks to Africa as the jewel to be protected.

It is however a grave mistake to assume that since all the African nations have attained independence, the die has been cast. There remains even more outstanding work that men like Nkrumah, Nyerere and Kaunda would have wanted to see coming to completion. It is not a matter to debate whether independence goes beyond shaking off the shackles of political oppression only; taking the struggle for empowerment goes beyond that spectrum.

While going back to basics might not mean waging more liberation wars in Africa, the era the continent is living in calls for a different kind of war to be waged. It is a war of food security, a war of maternal health, a war of education and health, a war of environmental management, gender equality and women empowerment; it is a war of environmental sustainability and forging global partnerships for development. It is a war that says Africa will not draw its development blueprint stringed to its former oppressors, but will emerge confident that a new course can be developed as co-equals than subordinates of those from America, Europe and Asia.

Lessons for Africa over the years have provided reasons for the continent not to ever trust her former oppressors. As many observers have pointed that no African nation can stand on its own or chart its economic destiny successfully without its neighbors, “splendid isolation” is not feasible for the self-proclaimed largest economies of Africa.

The argument naturally follows that South Africa might be a big economy, but growing into the BRICS on its own is not the best to chart progress forward. South Africa needs to pull along its brothers and sisters into that bloc and chip a place not for one nation, but the entire continent. There is power in numbers and combined resources. The continent has more power levers if member states pull together.

This is where President Mugabe’s “back to basics” call comes in. As long as member states do not pull together, the divide-and-rule strategy which has been used on countless occasions on the continent will still be employed by Africa’s former colonisers.
Calling Africa back to basics is calling for the rediscovering of the fire of the revolution. It is seeking to rekindle a continent to a level of consciousness whose momentum, if had been maintained, would have propelled the continent to economic superstardom.

Africa is a superstar who only needs to look none other than into the mirror to realise that crafting development and progress requires self-inspiration more than external jolts. The Golden Jubilee must raise all those burning issues and turn focus to internal motivations rather than looking beyond for any meaningful development agenda. The founding fathers of the OAU have always been lamented at a time when strong leaders of integrity who speak on behalf of their people without fear have become an endangered species.

African Unity
How much longer would Africa have been in chains if our founding fathers were as coward as some African leaders today

Those words which reminded Tony Blair to “keep his England,” came from a leader from the crop that drew inspiration from Africa’s founding fathers in no surprise. But why should it be only a single leader whose spine can stand up and point Africa’s former colonisers back to their own territories and tell then without any feeling of guilt or fear that this continent is Black owned from the Cape to Cairo?

Raising leaders of distinction can only be a feasible project if the men and women tasked to lead their different countries on the continent choose to go the way travelled by the great founding fathers. Maybe as continuous debates on regional integration, trade, commerce, HIV and AIDS and many other matters are launched, there should be one great debate on how to take Africa back to the basics of revolutionary thoughts that transformed the continent and wrestled occupied territories from the former oppressors.

The debate on how to relieve those moments is very much needed at this juncture as the continent’s citizens continuously hope that their leaders will lead the new fight against neo-colonialism. Men and women who will walk with their fellow countrymen to the completion of a fight that was half achieved when political forces overthrew former colonial governments from Africa are called upon at the moment. Men and women who will join the leader who reminds Blair to mind his business in England and let Africa chart its own course are the most wanted at this moment.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations must have leaders pondering on where they will find such men or how they can raise that caliber of revolutionaries. The fight is far from over as it becomes more sophisticated in the global age run by economics and not guns. The same spirit that gave Africa its political independence is the one needed to reposition the continent on a firm and sound development pedestal. But for now, while a lot eludes that feat, the answer seems to point at the founding fathers’ spirit which keeps calling the continent’s sons and daughters back to the basics of the revolution. The call could be heeded and redefine the continent or be ignored and continue to see a continent that is a beggar literally residing on a beach of gold.


By: Mhlomuli Ncube