Africa faces major challenges on OAU/AU anniversary
Published May 31, 2009 9:23 PM
This May 25 is the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of
African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over 30 member-states formed the
continental body in 1963 amid a groundswell of independence struggles. Every
year this date is celebrated on the continent and in the world as “Africa
Day” or “Africa Liberation Day.”
The OAU’s creation represented a culmination of resistance against
European-imposed slavery that began in the 15th century. Following numerous
earlier revolts seeking freedom and self-determination for the African people,
during the 20th century national liberation movements took on a mass character,
accelerating the pace of independence from colonialism.
At the same time, in the Caribbean and the United States mass struggles were
waged for self-determination, independence and equality, including the mass
struggle for civil rights in the U.S. The origins of the concept of the
commonality of conditions among Black peoples took place in the Western
Hemisphere. These origins grew directly out of the revolts against slavery and
other acts of self-determination on the part of the African people in the
colonies throughout the Americas.
Kwame Nkrumah was the founding prime minister and president of Ghana, the first
state to win national independence south of the Sahara. In a pamphlet issued in
1968 entitled “The Specter of Black Power,” Nkrumah wrote,
“Pan-Africanism has its beginnings in the liberation struggle of
African-Americans, expressing the aspirations of Africans and people of African
descent. From the first Pan-African Conference, held in London in 1900, until
the fifth and last Pan-African Conference held in Manchester (UK) in 1945,
African-Americans provided the main driving power of the movement.
Pan-Africanism then moved to Africa, its true home, with the holding of the
First Conference of Independent African States in Accra (Ghana) in April 1958,
and the All-African People’s Conference in December of the same
year.” (Reprinted in “Revolutionary Path,” 1973)
In the same pamphlet Nkrumah continues by drawing attention to some of the
leading figures in the struggle who played a significant role in building the
worldwide movement for liberation and unity. He notes: “The work of the
early pioneers of Pan-Africanism such as Sylvester Williams, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois,
Marcus Garvey, and George Padmore, none of whom were born in Africa, has become
a treasured part of Africa’s history. It is significant that two of them,
Dr. DuBois and George Padmore, came to live in Ghana at my invitation. Dr.
DuBois died, as he wished, on African soil, while working in Accra on the
Encyclopedia Africana. George Padmore became my Adviser on African Affairs, and
spent the last years of his life in Ghana, helping in the revolutionary
struggle for African unity and socialism.”
In February 1966, the socialist-oriented government of Kwame Nkrumah was
overthrown in Ghana with the backing of the U.S. imperialists. After relocating
in Guinea and being appointed as co-president by Ahmed Sekou Toure, Nkrumah
concluded that the OAU could not fulfill its mission as long as U.S.
imperialism maintained its influence on the continent.
Nkrumah wrote in 1968, “The Organization of African Unity has been
rendered virtually useless as a result of the machinations of neocolonialists
and their puppets. Yet it is being preserved as an innocuous organization in
the hope that it may delay the formation of a really effective Pan-African
organization, which will lead to genuine political unification. Encouragement
is being given to the formation of African regional economic organizations in
the knowledge that without political cohesion they will be ineffective and
serve to strengthen, not weaken, neocolonialist exploitation and
domination.” (Introduction to “The Specter of Black
Challenges of the African Union today
In 2002 the member states of the Organization of African Unity decided to
rename the continental body and include many of the objectives that Nkrumah had
advanced during the 1950s and 1960s. The OAU was then recast as the African
Union (AU), with the stated aim of forming a monetary system, parliament,
peacekeeping force, greater intercontinental trade and economic integration,
etc. A Pan-African Parliament has been established and is based in the Republic
of South Africa.
The AU has also appointed a permanent representative to the U.S., Mrs. Amina
Salum Ali, who works out of Washington, D.C. Ali, a Tanzanian national,
recently visited the city of Detroit, where she spoke at Wayne State
University. During Ali’s lecture and in a later interview with the
Pan-African News Wire, the AU ambassador emphasized the necessity of the
continent to overcome the legacy of slavery and colonialism.
Ali stated that the AU “is implementing a three-year strategic plan
(2009-2012) dealing with peace and security due to a number of conflicts on the
continent. The AU is developing protocols that guide peace and security as well
as an African Stand-by Force and a Rapid Deployment Force. In addition, the AU
has established a ‘panel of the wise’ consisting of former
heads-of-state who will intervene to resolve conflicts.”
With specific reference to women’s status in Africa, Ali stated,
“Women need to be empowered and this is very key to the AU’s
objectives. The AU has adopted a declaration on women’s rights that has
as a goal the realization of 50-percent women’s representation in
government in both the legislative and executive branches. The declaration on
women’s rights also applies to educational access, health care as well as
opposition to gender-based violence.”
In regard to economic development, the AU ambassador said, “Continental
integration must create a common market. We need to have access and movement of
goods, services and information.”
“The legacy of colonialism left Africa as a raw materials supplier. We
need to develop an internal infrastructure. Transportation, telecommunications
and highways are needed. In Africa we have potential because of the production
of oil, natural gas and geothermal energy. Yet we are importing $28 billion in
agricultural products every year,” Ali said.
Ali continued by pointing out that “some African countries have done
quite well over the last three years. However, the global economic crisis has
had rippling effects on Africa with the decline in commodity prices and
tourism. This is the time to seek greater involvement in global
As it relates to the post-colonial history of Africa, Ali said, “The Cold
War had an impact on the continent and in subsequent years the policies imposed
by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were not helpful. The
reform of the United Nations Security Council is necessary since Africa has no
permanent representative. The G20 only has one African member, South
When asked about U.S. military involvement on the African continent, Ali said,
“The Africa Command (AFRICOM) was enacted without consultation with the
various states. The AU position is that the U.S. can support African standby
forces, but not station their troops on the continent.”
The AU ambassador also noted that the U.S. already has relationships with
various African states, naming the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti as one
such country where the U.S. has troops stationed.
In response to a question on Zimbabwe-U.S. relations, Ali said that the AU
supported the new inclusive government in Zimbabwe and felt that sanctions
should be lifted. The AU is pressing for more dialogue between Zimbabwe and the
Obama administration in Washington.
The continuing problem of U.S. interference
Perhaps the most difficult situation that the AU finds itself in today is
centered around the Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). At present the U.S. government
has backed 4,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi to serve as military
peacekeepers in Somalia. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia
has been under attack by the Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam resistance movements,
which have refused to recognize the U.S.-backed regime because of the continued
presence of the AMISOM forces.
The U.S. is reported to have supplied over $160 million to fund AMISOM and to
train a new Somalia national army and coast guard. Yet the fighting between
Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam against the AMISOM and TFG forces has intensified.
During early May the resistance forces took over several key areas north of the
capital of Mogadishu. On May 22 the AMISOM forces launched what was described
as a counterattack to reclaim areas taken over by the resistance forces in the
Prior to the formation of the new TFG government in January, the Somali people
had waged a two-year struggle against an invasion and occupation by U.S.-backed
troops from Ethiopia. The U.S. had opposed the increasing influence of the
Islamic Court Union (ICU) during 2006 and consequently encouraged Ethiopia to
occupy the country. In an effort to counter the failed mission by Ethiopia, the
U.S. sought to cultivate support within the ICU, causing a split between
moderate and radical forces.
Although the official position of the AU is that the TFG should be supported,
most African states have not committed any troops to intervene through AMISOM.
Consequently, the U.S.-backed East African governments of Uganda and Burundi
have constituted the so-called peacekeeping force, which has increasingly taken
aggressive actions against the people of Somalia.
This political dilemma for the AU can only be resolved through consultation
with the various forces operating now in Somalia. As long as the U.S. is
supporting and financing a military solution that seeks to exclude the
resistance movements inside the country, there will be no lasting peace
agreements. Historically the intervention of the U.S. in Somalia and the Horn
of Africa has created more instability for the people of the region.
Today the U.S. and the European Union have sent flotillas of warships to the
Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Somalia and other states in
the region. This buildup in the naval presence of a host of imperialist
countries represents a clear threat to the sovereignty and development efforts
on the African continent.
As Kwame Nkrumah stated in his address to the founding meeting of the OAU in
1963, “Many independent African states are involved by military pacts
with the former colonial powers. The stability and security, which such devices
seek to establish, are illusory, for the metropolitan powers seize the
opportunity to support their neocolonialist controls by direct military
involvement. We have seen how the neocolonialists use their bases to entrench
themselves and even to attack neighboring independent states. Such bases are
centers of tension and potential danger spots of military conflict.”
Nkrumah in this same address went on to point out that the presence of
imperialist military bases in Africa “threaten the security not only of
the country in which they are situated but of neighboring countries as well.
How can we hope to make Africa a nuclear-free zone and independent of cold war
pressure with such military involvement on our continent? Only by
counter-balancing a common defense force with a common desire for an Africa
untrammeled by foreign dictation or military and nuclear presence. This will
require an all-embracing African High Command, especially if the military pacts
with the imperialists are to be renounced. It is the only way we can break
these direct links between the colonialism of the past and the neocolonialism
which disrupts us today.”
Therefore, it is necessary for Africa to break with the continuing colonial and
imperialist influence and domination in an effort to realize genuine
independence. Such independence can only be achieved under a socialist system
where the wealth of the continent and its tremendous labor power can be
harnessed for the benefit of the workers and farmers of the continent.
The writer covered the Detroit visit of the African Union ambassador to the
U.S. when she spoke at WSU and the Africa Day commemoration held at the Dr.
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE