By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published May 31, 2009
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
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 Power")
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
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 affairs."
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 Africa."
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
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.