A United States of Africa is a useless dream
Tuesday 17 July 2007
By Tanonoka Joseph Whande
GABORONE - Muammar Gaddafi is an angry man. He is impatient and frustrated. He cannot understand why Africans are so slow in accepting a United States of Africa.
Gaddafi hopes to be both midwife and father to a predictably stillborn fantasy. I sympathise.
Gaddafi denounced the African Union as an ineffective and useless organization. For once, I agree with him. But he can go hang!
There is so much talk, mainly from Gaddafi himself, about establishing a ‘United States of Africa’ and Gaddafi dreams of leading such a ‘state.’
It was Kwame Nkrumah’s dream too.
But that was when Africa was inhabited by humble, complying Africans. Not anymore.
If the champions of a proposed unitary African state are the seasoned and proven dictators of the likes of Muammar Gaddafi, please stop the world because I want to get off. And I am not the only one.
I will tell you something here and now. There is no way I would accept Gaddafi as leader. Actually, I feel sorry for the Libyans who continue to suffer under his despotic rule just as much as some Libyans feel sorry for us suffering under Robert ‘Pol Pot’ Mugabe.
Some people are just not made out to be leaders. And, have you noticed, it’s always the dictators who want to champion people’s ‘freedom.’
Before we can talk about this subject, let us, please, take note of paramount issues that need to be taken into consideration. There is just too much work that needs to be done before we can talk about a unitary African state.
To begin with, who are the leaders we would put forward to lead such a unitary state? Do we have an African who can look at Africa without seeing borders? We don’t need pretenders like Kofi Annan, people who are bent on pleasing certain sectors at the expense of others.
Second, we have to work on a constitution that does not take anything away from the people. Freedom of worship, for example, is not negotiable.
Third, African nations themselves are heavily polarised internally. There is tribal discontent as some ruling leaders put their tribes above others. There is tribal strife and inequality in many countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and others.
Would Botswana’s Basarwa have elevated status in a United States of Africa? And the pygmies? Would they enjoy equal status with the rest?
In Sudan, Bashir allows black people to be enslaved by light-skinned Arabs, what will black people elsewhere think?
What will Africa’s continental government do about supposedly small internal conflicts in individual nation states (Basarwa in Botswana, Caprivians in Namibia, the Shangaani and the San in Zimbabwe, etc)?
What will we do about western Morocco, which the Polisario Front already calls the Saharawi Arab Republic? How can we unite when we are embroiled in border disputes?
How does a fragmented nation become part of a whole?
In addition to tribal loyalties, African nations were polarised during colonial times so much that we now mostly dwell on our differences and not our similarities.
How much influence will petrol dollars have on poorer African countries?
Where will equality come from? Or, maybe, first, we might need to define what an ‘African’ is. You will be surprised to find that there is no such thing, in real terms, except “a person from Africa, especially a black person.”
Consider, too, that the name Africa is itself not even ‘African’. Africa or Africana “refers more or is connected more to especially southern Africa.”
Semantics, yes, but still, there appears to be nothing we all have in common except residing on the same continent. And that’s not enough. But I wonder, if Gaddafi and Mubarak are Africans, am I an African too?
But it’s not a question of geography. Being African means more than being on the same continent with someone.
It is a way of life.
Morocco spends more time pursuing membership in the European Union than worrying about the African Union although it is also a member of the Arab League. May I please call such indecisiveness ‘bilateral prostitution’?
I do admit, though, that the African Union, like Gaddafi says, is a sterile group meant to cover up for the excesses of African despots like Gaddafi himself. He is frustrated that Africans don’t want to cede authority to him.
And Mr Kuffuor has my sympathies because the African Union he leads has nothing to do with ‘African’ unity or welfare of Africans. Before Africa and its ‘Africans’ start thinking about a unitary state, they should first identify themselves and clear the dense political forests in every African country.
They should first remove local political cobwebs that interfere with the running of even villages. I am a pitch black African and, owing to the colour of my skin, am a potential slave for Bashir, Mubarak and Gaddafi.
The Arabs assisted the whites and took part in the slave trade. Oh, this has nothing to do with reconciliation. If it has, why is it that the victims are always the ones expected to reach out and reconcile?
Okay, then. Let us start with southern Africa. Let’s start with SADC. Who would we vote for to lead the southern part of the continent or Africa itself? Mbeki? Don’t laugh, this is not a comedy.
Mugabe? God have mercy! Mogae? Why? Dos Santos? Dos who? Levy Mwanawasa? Hifikepunye Pohamba? Bingu Mutharika, King Mswati? Stop shaking your heads so vigorously.
These ‘leaders’ are all we have. All of them, except one, are very uninspiring, I know, and it is a mystery why they are leaders of their respective nations.
Move further up north then and you find murderers and slave traders. There is Museveni, the lackadaisical Kibaki, the charlatan Yar’Adua and many hardly democratic leaders.
Is Africa’s best in Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Mali, Equatorial Guinea or Tanzania? For goodness sake, where are African leaders? Don’t be fooled. Africa’s fortunes will not improve by uniting.
Why should we unite anyway? And under what banner? I want to keep my identity. My religion will be under threat too, given a particular religion’s propensity for intolerance.
We are different and all we can do is support each other’s cause, if need be. I am not going to unite with slave traders or with those Arabs and Indians who find racism even in religion.
There is absolutely no way that would find me looking at Qaddafi as Africa’s leader. Gaddafi should stop abusing money from national coffers to promote his idea. Even if the idea were to mature, he would not be the leader.
He is never going to rule Africa the continent. Gaddafi, like Morocco, should channel his energies to Europe and the League of Arab states, taking Israel in between. A united states of Africa is not going to be a child of Africa’s dictators, especially dictators like Qaddafi who are in the forefront.
It is all very well to be united. But it is not mandatory to be united with people who do not share your vision.
What does Gaddafi wish for Botswana? In Zimbabwe, he took some of our land and farms in exchange for petrol. Botswana must make sure your elephants remain here.
I fear that our intention to unite is being hi-jacked by ill-meaning peoples who have no allegiance either to us or to our continent. When we unite, we give up part of our objectives in acknowledgment of our colleagues.
It has to do with faith. Unity is compromise and when we compromise, none of us get what we wanted in the first place. Our wishes are replaced with trust, hope and promises.
I now hear about unity, as in a ‘United States of Africa.’ Unity does not mean stupidity on the part of black Africans.
*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean writer.
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