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53 states Federation?

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Tai Ngwilizi, May 26, 2011.

  1. Tai Ngwilizi

    Tai Ngwilizi JF-Expert Member

    May 26, 2011
    Joined: Apr 20, 2010
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    A growing number of African leaders share a dream: of uniting their continent in a single, 53-state federation.

    This is the United States as you've never seen it before. With 53 states, and more than 2,000 official languages, it's also home to some pretty famous pyramids and there is scarcely a McDonald's to be seen. It's the USA II - the United States of Africa.

    It's an incredibly ambitious idea but, perhaps surprisingly, not a new one. Infact, it's been around since the time colonial masters held sway. In a world of increasing globalization, where the small guys often get drowned out by the bigger players, especially on issues such as trade, some African leaders believe the only way for the continent to prosper is to unite. They want to replace the current African Union (AU), a largely administrative group for the 53 countries from Egypt to South Africa, with a proper African government that would control a two million-strong continental army, direct the fight against AIDS, and speak with one voice in international negotiations.

    "The battle for the United States of Africa is the only one worth fighting for our generation - the only one that can provide the answers to the thousand-and-one problems faced by the populations of Africa," AlphaOumar Konare, head of the AU, said before the meeting.

    Spear heading the charge towards "One Africa" is a leader who often wears clothes emblazoned with the outline of the continent - Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or to give him his full title, Guide of the First of September, Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Colonel Gaddafi has traveled to the summit, which starts tomorrow, by land trying to drum up support and persuade his counterparts that a USA is the only way forward because "the voice of the people must be heard at last".

    He already has Ghana and Senegal, the oases of stability and democracy in the otherwise turbulent west of the continent, on board as well as those with more dubious international reputations like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

    But crucial African heavyweights like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are either keeping studiously quiet or have professed themselves against rushing into a union. "Before you put a roof on a house, you need to build the foundations," the former South African President Thabo Mbeki apparently told diplomats.

    The United States of Africa was first coined more than 80 years ago by the activist and poet, Marcus Garvey. "Hail! United States of Africa -free! Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair! State in perfect sisterhood united. Born of truth, mighty thou shalt ever be," was the start of his poem penned in 1924.

    Although born in Jamaica, Mr Garvey felt himself to be an African at heart. Almost single-handedly he created a "Back to Africa" movement in the United States, touring the country urging African-Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa. But he was not just a man of words. He launched a Black Star Line steamship, which he hoped would help transport Africans back to their ancestral homeland, and also kick-start a worldwide African-run economy, shipping goods and raw materials between North America, the Caribbean and Africa.

    It ultimately proved to be a fiasco as a business, but the Black Star Line was an important symbol of black potential. And the man who inherited the Pan-African mantle, Ghana's first post-independence president Kwame Nkrumah, ensured the hope lived on.

    During Nkrumah's first year in office, he gathered together politicians, trade unionists and students to discuss the "African non-violent revolution" and after the 31-nation Organization of African Unity (OAU) had been formed in 1963, he kept pushing his peers to go still further. "The emergence of such a mighty stabilizing force in this strife-torn world should be regarded ... not as the shadowy dream of a visionary, but as a practical proposition which the peoples of Africa can and should translate into reality ... We must act now. Tomorrow may be too late," Nkrumah declared.

    He proposed a formal declaration that the African nations present "here and now agree to the establishment of a union of African states" but he didn't win many, or rather, any converts. And soon he was arguing with Tanzania about African socialism and criticizing Francophone countries for still relying on their colonial masters.

    This time around, there is a broad consensus that a united Africa is a good thing, but the proposed time frame of reaching that goal by 2015 is seen by many both inside and outside the continent as far too hasty.

    "It's definitely something to aim for, a worthwhile endeavor for the future, but we have a lot of work to get to that point," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's former finance minister, anti-corruption crusader and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in the US, told The Independent.

    "Just look at the EU - it took them years. First we need the key countries to be politically and economically strong, and we need to put regional infrastructure projects in place. Once you've got that momentum, then we can start talking about a proper union," she added. And she has a point. Even in the EU, which now has 27 members, newcomers from eastern Europe like Bulgaria and Romania have recently been criticized for their lawlessness and gangland problems.

    Bringing double the number of nations under one roof is already a challenge but when that continent is the world's poorest and least stable, it seems even more daunting.

    But Africa watchers point out that there are signs for hope - freedom of expression and freedom of movement have increased across practically the whole continent, and while the recent and widely-regarded fraudulent elections in Nigeria were a step back, democracy is gaining an ever-increasing foothold.

    And the number of fully-blown African wars has declined. The amputations and bloody civil massacres in Sierra Leone and Liberia have given way to a fragile peace, although there are still worrying hot spots, most notably in Darfur and Somalia.

    Although the OAU was rebranded as the AU in 2002, it has continually struggled to shake off its image as a talking shop where rhetoric and bombastic speech thrive, but little action is taken.

    Most recently its inability to persuade any country other than Uganda to send troops into Mogadishu to patrol the streets and the lack of pressure placed on Sudan to end the Darfur crisis have weakened its credibility. And the lavish sums spent by the rotating hosts of the twice-yearly summits have done little to make the organization feel close to the 850 million ordinary Africans it is supposed to represent. The tendency to excess started in 1965 with Nkrumah, who built a palace with 60 luxury suites and a 2,000-seater banqueting hall just for a summit. Last year Col Gaddafi arrived in Sudan with a fleet of shiny cars that stretched around the perimeter of the whole conference center, and flew in hordes of female bodyguards.

    Among Africa-watchers and some citizens there's skepticism about how such a proposal might be turned from dream to reality, given the tendency of the continent's leaders to cling onto power.

    "It's a good idea. It would be nice to go from Monrovia to Cape Town without needing a visa, for example," said Ansu Konneh, a journalist in the Liberian capital. "But you know Africa's leaders, they are so power-hungry and they wouldn't want to lose any of their privileges. I don't think they would feel secure having a continental president."

    One man who has already put himself forward for the role of African president is the Senegalese music star Youssou N'dour. "I pledge in front of you, student youth of Africa, to stand as a candidate to head the Union African government if the project is endorsed at the heads of state summit," he declared at Dakar University this week.

    His ambition is likely to remain the stuff of fantasy, but the United States of Africa is definitely on the table. "When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion" goes an old Ethiopian proverb. Most African leaders feel that to be true. But whether they spin that single web and how long it takes, is another matter.

    At the June 2007 meeting of the African Union, discussions centered upon Gaddafi's idea of a federation of African states.
    In February 2009, upon being elected chairman of the 53-nation African Union in Ethiopia, Gaddafi told the assembled African leaders: "I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa." The BBC reported that Gaddafi had proposed "a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent".

    While development remains in the early stages of planning, ambitious targets have been set. The focus so far has been on building subdivisions of Africa - the proposed East African Federation can be seen as an example of this. The President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade,has indicated that the United States of Africa may exist from as early as 2017. The African Union, by contrast, has set itself the task of building a "united and integrated" Africa by 2025. Gaddafi has also indicated that the proposed federation may extend as far west as the Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and other islands featuring a large African diaspora, may be invited to join.

    Culled from the Independent and African Union archives

    Following in the footsteps of the EU; the United States of Africa would soon be a reality. The question is ....when?

    Delavegas UKAP
    B. Info Tech