The African Union stands comparison with the other continental unions. It accomplishes more than the Commonwealth or La Francophonie, says political scientist Keith Gottschalk.
This year, Africa Day marks 60 years of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This anniversary raises the following question: to what extent has the vision of the founding fathers of the OAU been realized 60 years later? What would not exist without the efforts of the organization and its successor, theAfrican Union ?
When the OAU was created, two competing visions clashed. Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana, in his speech Africa must Unite (Africa Must Unite), argued for continental federalism, a Union of African States, a continental diplomatic corps, a Ministry of Defense and a common market.
He had been massively outvoted by other presidents who refused to give up their sovereignty. The OAU, created on May 25, 1963, is therefore inspired by the Organization of American States. It is an intergovernmental organization whose charter commits it not to interfere in the internal affairs of its member states, even in the event of massacres. It was based on precedents set by theONU, Arab League and Organization of American States, and later the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The OAU is committed to decolonization, including ending apartheid in South Africa and settler rule in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). She exerted herculean diplomatic lobbying and weighed in on sanctions to achieve this. Her Release Committee, based in Dar es Salaam (the economic capital of Tanzania), has donated arms and funds to insurgencies in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique.
The OAU was an achievement of state-centric Pan-Africanism. It launched a whole series of continental NGOs, whose headquarters were hosted by one or any other of the member states. We will just cite an example: she supported the launch of thePan African Writers Association. Ghana has undertaken to provide this association with premises and equipment so that it can operate. Ghana has also undertaken to provide premises for its headquarters.
A development that had not been foreseen when the OAU was established in 1963 was the subsequent establishment of regional economic communities. There are more than a dozen. On the eight officially recognized by the AU, the most important are the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (CAE). These three areas are free trade areas and, at least on paper, ECOWAS and the EAC are customs unions. They are all stepping stones to the continental common market that Nkrumah lobbied for in 1963.
As a political scientist who has made researches on the OAU and AU, I would argue that these organizations have performed much better than most similar organizations in the world, although they also experienced several weaknesses.
One of the successes of the AU is its growing prestige. After its creation in 2002, Wikipedia did not consider it worthy of an entry until 2011. But today, 50 non-African states accredit ambassadors to the AU. Diaspora demanded to be included during South African President's tenure Thabo Mbeki, and is now officially recognized as the “sixth region” of the AU since 2003. The Caribbean nations, members of the CARICOM, have recently established formal links with the AU: these are nations of African descent, torn from Africa during centuries of the slave trade.
The AU architecture for peacekeeping and peacemaking has no equivalent in the Organization of American States, the Arab League or ASEAN. While most AU organs only meet twice a year, the Peace and Security Council has been meeting twice a month since its creation in 2004.
Dozens of ad hoc military missions help governments suppress terrorism everywhere, from the Sahel to northern Mozambique. Various peacekeepers from the AU and regional economic commissions have served in the many civil wars of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for decades.
The AU seeks to play a role in global governance. It tries to negotiate that Africa speaks with one voice within international organizations. Given that some of the most important economic decisions affecting Africa are made outside the continent, the urgency of this move is self-explanatory. The AU has its own embryonic diplomatic corps, with permanent diplomatic missions in Brussels (to negotiate with the EU), in Beijing, in Cairo (to negotiate with the Arab League) At New York (at the United Nations), and in Washington (to negotiate with the World Bank and the IMF).
Kwame Nkrumah called for an African common market as early as 1963. The 1994 Abuja Treaty proposed an elaborate 34-year timeline to achieve this. The first real step towards such economic integration is the African Continental Free Trade Area – headed by a South African General Secretary, Wamkele Mene. It is clear that it will take at least a decade to achieve this. But the price of “fragmentation of Africa”, as the World Bank calls it, will be well worth the Herculean lobbying and negotiating effort that will be required. There african continental free trade area is currently negotiating “rules of origin” and dispute settlement mechanisms as part of its first steps.
The AU strives to set standards. THE 1991 Abuja Treaty is certainly the most ambitious attempt in the world to import EU institutions and standards to another continent, which of course was only partially successful.
Few AU members have implemented the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. On the other hand, a majority of countries have acceded, one after the other, to the African Peer Review Mechanism which, like the AU, has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary. This is part of the peer pressure towards constitutionalism, and against autocrats.
One of the failures of the AU is not to have prevented the coups serial. There have been more than 200 coups since independence in the 1960s. The obvious reason is that the continental organization never sends a military intervention to suppress the putschists, capture them and bring them to justice for treason. It is limited to diplomatic pressure against them, such as the suspension of their membership.
In 2016, the AU launched a campaign to “Silencing the Guns by 2020”. Unfortunately, this campaign turned out to be unable to prevent coups and terrorist insurgencies to continue, so the slogan was reworded to “silencing the guns by 2030”. It remains to be seen whether wars can be eliminated across the entire African continent by 2030.
Another failure is to get Member States to pay their annual dues. It is clear that the current penalties of suspension, which only come into full effect when a State is two years in arrears, are not dissuasive. The UA should certainly follow universal banking practice that if a customer is more than two months in arrears in repaying a mortgage obligation, full penalties are implemented.
The AU often sends election observers to countries to monitor the conduct of elections and hopefully prevent vote rigging in its various forms. She was critiqued for its reluctance to censor incumbent regimes that tip the scales in electoral contests in favor of power.
In conclusion, the AU can be compared to its counterparts in developing countries such as ASEAN, the Organization of American States and the Arab League. AU performs better than Commonwealth or Francophonie. Only the EU has a head start, as its budget is three times that of the AU.
The AU has laid the groundwork for the achievement of the objectives of its founders. The end of coups d'état and civil wars, the establishment of an African common market and the possibility for Africa to speak with one voice in global governance are laudable objectives that must continue to be pursued. pursue.