Mutharika's warning against the United States of Africa'

bingu_mtharika.jpgPresident Bingu wa Mutharika was reported to have expressed reservations on the speedy formation of an African unity government theUnited States of Africa - USA, an issue that was discussed at the recent African Union-AU summit in Ethiopia (Nyasa Times 3/2/09).


Mutharika's sentiments highlight the undercurrent of resistance, which
the historic idea of a single government for Africa faces at a time
when AU summits are taking the inspiration to different heights.

Well, even though some African leaders regard new AU chairman – Libyan
leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's version of African unity with great
suspicion. Inside sources at the summit have revealed how the
discussion on the creation of an overarching African regime became very
heated to the discomfort of Gaddafi, who is for swift unity.

Rightly as some people have observed, concerned African leaders like
Mutharika are uncomfortable with Gaddafi's position for an accelerated
unity government as it endangers their national power base and
political ambition. 

But, no matter their divergent outlook on the time-frame for setting
forth an all-encompassing African administration, Mutharika and Gaddafi
are two faces of the same coin. Why? Because Mutharika, Gadaffi and the
rest of African leaders will never hint on how Africa's leadership' is
the biggest hindrance to the vital vision of greater unity and
prosperity for the continent. 

AU or United States of Africa?

Mutharika's view for an unhurried establishment of a continental
government for Africa is not a new phenomenon. Since independence, this
proposal has been torn by disagreements over what sort of unity the
continent should pursue: economic cooperation or political federation.

Notwithstanding the complexity of Africa's political, economic and
cultural dynamics, African leaders today (like their predecessors) have
also grappled with the question of whether the idea of an all-inclusive
government can be realised here and now'. But as Mutharika correctly
observes, African leaders have not given enough thought over the needs
and obligations of individual countries within the framework of a joint
African government.

In my view, African leaders have not developed a truly comprehensive
and appropriate consensus on the creation of a single African
government. By suffocating genuine political dialogue and fostering
dodgy consultation with some privileged stakeholders, the continent's
leaders have, for a long time, hijacked this fundamental concept with
an elitist and top-down approach.

In addition, even before the AU venture comes round to seeing the
evolution of greater political unity and economic integration for the
continent, possibly similar to the European Union (EU) model, the
continent's leaders have jumped onto the over-ambitious objective of
unifying Africa as a national and sovereign federation of states like
the United States of America (USA). 

I reckon that the abortive progression of unity government for Africa
lies more in the nature of post-independence leadership, which is
explicitly divisive, dictatorial, defective, and destructive.

Needless to say, Africa has been and is still too diverse a continent,
with predominantly fragile states, which are democratically weak. The
continent is mired by enormous socio-economic inequalities despite
being endowed with abundant precious resources. There is considerable
political intrigue and instability as well as conflicts, while several
ethnic groupings agitate to secede due frustration over prevailing
political disorder and economic alienation.

Very little effort has been put into celebrating cultural diversity and
developing equality for ethnicities within the dynamic of unifying
Africa. Many ethnicities and tribal minorities remain marginalized and
are aloof of political, social and economic processes.

In Malawi, Mutharika et cetera know well how regionalism and tribal
politics work in elections and the running of government. If leaders
have not addressed this in individual countries, how can they do so at
a continental level?

Any national referendum on this critical issue? No! Because, the
majority of Malawians and Africans at large are not aware of the
existence of AU. Neither have they heard about this impending monster
called single African government'. A huge gap exists between the
aspirations of African leaders and those of their people.

In this context, how honest and committed are African leaders in
developing Africa's single vision, effective strategies and practical
infrastructure for a unity government? How can African people believe
that such a grandiose plan will bring about much needed positive
transformation? One dares not ask about the capacity of AU to deliver
such an endeavour!

Many people in the continent should be horrified at the mention of a
single government for the continent now or the near future. As one
Nyasa Times reader wondered: how can Malawi be under one umbrella
administration with war-torn countries such as Somalia, DRC etc? In the
never-ending suffering of the people of Africa; poverty, disease,
hunger… there is immense fear of having more dynasties akin to
Gaddafi's in Libya, uncalled for third/forth terms and comebacks like
that of UDF presidential candidate, Bakili Muluzi in Malawi.

It means throwing ourselves into the horror of dictators and
pseudo-democrats, who are corrupt and do not respect human rights,
national constitutions, rule of law, good governance etc. It leaves us
with leaders who are ready to harass the media, stifle opposing views
and obstruct the independence and professionalism of public and
democratic institutions. What about Zimbabwe's comrade Robert Mugabe
type of barbaric police, army, state intelligence and ruling party
militia? Now, where is Mutharika and the May 19 presidential candidates
in this bigger picture?

Precedent

Almost all African leaders subscribe to the thought of African unity
due to historical and ideological reasons. The aspiration for Africa's
emancipation, political unity and economic independence is firmly
located in pan-africanism and the long-term lamentation over slavery,
colonisation, western economic exploitation and the continent's
persistent weak position on the global stage.

But the current generation of African leaders, just as their
predecessors, the so-called founding-fathers of independent Africa, is
accountable to no-one. And AU as an institution, with its modus
operandi, is simply a collective reflection of Africa's leadership. In
other words, any unity government for Africa should be considered
against the continent's nature of leadership and government. 

In hindsight, the continent's founding fathers, whilst singing hymns of
unity, solidarity and prosperity, wrongly thought they could unite
Africa and realise economic development through dictatorial leadership.
Ghana's first president Kwame Nkhrumah, who is much credited for
expounding on the theory of Africa's unity and creating a blueprint for
it in his book Africa Must Unite', ended up as a dictator, just like
Malawi's authoritarian ruler, late Kamuzu Banda.

Its obvious that such autocratic rule can only prove counterproductive
to the dream of United Africa because it assumes that repression can
bring about long-lasting peace and political stability, provided there
is some economic growth.' Certainly, this is not to underestimate the
threats the continent's unity faced from imperialism and the divide and
rule game-play brought about by the cold war. 

Gaddafi's dream

The enthroning of Africa's self-professed pan-Africanist, brother
leader Gaddafi, at the helm of the continental body has, to some
extent, emboldened the unity movement and its agenda. Gaddafi the
contemporary unity torchbearer is minded to heralding the grand
inspiration of a United States of Africa with the greatest urgency. As
a revolutionary', Gaddafi believes that he can bring about Africa's
reawakening, the leadership of which he has yearned for long. In this
magnificent plan, he sees himself as the God-sent Emir of the Great
Kingdom of Africa. Gaddafi's ultimate dream is to be the President of
all African Presidents'. Like Mutharika, MCP's John Tembo and UDF's
Muluzi would equally dread submission to any such superior authority.

Interestingly, Gaddafi who overthrew King Idris in 1969 to become
Libya's leader is no admirer of democratic practice, which he deems
western and divisive in Africa's tribal setting. He has accordingly
dived into frantic efforts to enlist the support of the continent's
traditional chiefs and kings to undercut the dithering of fellow
political leaders, in his dream of uniting Africa.

Gaddafi's theoretical view is that traditional leaders hold the
authentic voice for the grassroots and are thus better placed to cause
Africa's unification. Immersed in brother leader's expensive gifts and
extravagance, the chiefs and kings have crowned him King of Kings' in
return.

To what extent has Ngwazi Mutharika et al courted and exploited chiefs
for political gains? Of course, modern-day political leaders are happy
to have drained away the powers of traditional chiefs/kings, under the
concept of one nation and modern government.'

AU institutional capacity

Furthermore, Africa finds itself under pressure to quickly move towards
some sort of greater integration probably closer to EU form of economic
and political union. However, AU boasts of edicts, which look good on
paper but lack enough steam to drive things in the right direction.
There are clauses pledging human rights, and ineffectual
ground-breaking phrases aimed at tackling conflict and bringing peace
and security.

Then, there is the experimental institution the Pan African Parliament
(PAP), which lacks legislative powers, and is but a non-entity, in the
eyes of Africa's ruling elite and the masses. With other major
obstacles, the illusions of a fully functioning African Stand-by Force
have been found obsolete with civil strife in Somalia, Sudan's Darfur
and Eastern DRC.

Political turmoil rages on elsewhere in the continent, as AU remains
deeply buried under dysfunctional silent diplomacy. Evidently, regional
bodies like SADC etc are infected by a similar ailment, which makes it
a joke to talk of amalgamating into an African government.  

In fact, the establishment of a partial African government through the
notion of coalition of the willing', as suggested by Mutharika would
leave AU indulging in a mediocre trial. The dream of African unity
government is bound to crash land just like the much-applauded African
Peer Review Mechanism, which is largely seen as a deficient monitoring
experiment.

Mutharika's opinion though is that a fractional unity government will
not split up the continent, after all, the rest of AU will maintain
business as usual! Infatuated by a collegial association of Heads of
state whose main preoccupation seems to be gathering from one place to
another and exchanging pleasantries as they plot how to stay in power
in individual countries. 

Democratic African Union.

The best thing that could happen to Africa is for those few leaders who
truly subscribe to democratic norms and values to form a Democratic
African Union. The present quagmire that is the AU should provide
impetus for such a radical, but nonetheless constructive and
progressive action.

Such an organisation, if it were to become a reality, would have clear
membership criterion and guiding principles, demanding democratic
governance, respect for human rights and certain standards of economic
development as basic tenets for qualifying as a member. All these are
values and norms which African people simply deserve. Upon realising
their loss; countries that remain in AU would most probably strive to
improve in order to join the new body. 

At the grassroots level, the masses should be the driving engine for
much needed change and development-oriented union. The continent is
urgently in need of fresh and progressive leaders who can bring about a
new dynamic of African unity based on people's aspirations and purpose,
rather than that of the current rulers'.

Thus, the aspiration for Africa's unity government cannot and will not
be meaningfully achieved in the present political context, whereby
those meant to spearhead the venture are incapable of authentically
delivering.

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