To What Extent Have the Visions of AU Founding Fathers Been Realized by the Regional Body?

78

BY A STAFF WRITER

Almost 60 years have elapsed since the establishment of the former OAU which has now been transformed into the African Union. Looking back at all those years, several questions come into the mind of a serious thinker. The first question that comes to the mind is, to what extent have the former OAU and now AU been able to achieve the lofty goals for which the organization was formed? What strategies were initially envisaged? What are the major challenges that the continental organization has faced in its attempts to realize the lofty goals for which the organization was formed?

It is natural that these questions are raised every time the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments has convened as a process of trying to assess the merits and the de-merits of the organization over the last six decades.

ENA picked up this and related issues with Dr. Gutu Tesso, President of Oromia Economic Association on the occasion of the 35th AU Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments to be convened in a couple of days.

Speaking on the genesis of the formation of the OAU and later AU, Dr. Gutu stated, “After gaining political independence from their former colonizers, the African leaders realized the importance of promoting unity among the newly independent countries as an important tool to curb any level of attempts towards further colonization by the European powers. However, although they gained political independence, they still remained under the economic bondage of their colonizers and served as raw material sources for European industries and heavily depended on their former colonizers for marketing their resources and purchasing modern technology and other industrial goods and services.”

Having realized that they cannot handle the challenges they faced in the post-independence period, the leaders of Africa started to discuss on issues of unity and pan Africanism way back from 1957 and managed to form the OAU in 1963. They underscored on three basic tenets of African unity: political Pan Africanism, African economic integration and socio-cultural cooperation.

Dr. Gutu focused on the challenges African countries faced over the last several decades on achieving economic integration, noting “for more than 50 to 60 years the AU member states have failed to come up with a viable economic integration due to several bottlenecks. The leadership of African countries lacked the necessary political leadership, a strong democratic landscape and well developed infrastructural facilities as major preconditions for meaningful economic integration.”

He added that a number of economic communities including Arab Magreb Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Community of Sahel Sharan States, East African Economic Community, Economic Community of West African States, Economic Community of Central African States, IGAD and SADAC were formed but never came together at African level because these communities were competing among themselves.

The AU has come up with various plans including the Agenda 2063 but lacked strong coordinating capacity to ensure the implementation of the Agenda. For instance, the AU itself is dependent on foreign powers for its budget and these countries are trying to influence the decisions of the continental organization towards their own vested interests.

For instance, the AU itself is dependent on foreign powers for its budget and these countries are trying to influence the decisions of the continental organization towards their own vested interests.

Dr. Gutu noted: “the major powers of the world are not interested in African economic integration and want to deal with each country but not on group bases. Major world powers have greater stakes in financial institutions like AfDB and try to influences decisions by the bank”

African countries are still dependent on major developed countries even for their national budgets and run their economies on aid packages from the western developed countries and therefore lack a viable economic capacity for integration.

After almost 60 years of the existence of OAU and now AU, Africa is still plagued with multiple sets of conflicts, proliferation of terrorism, natural and man-made calamities, conflict induced refugee influx, human and arms trafficking which complicate the possibilities of political unity and the ideals of pan Africanism and economic integration.

Dr. Gutu suggested that leaders of African countries need to increase their commitment to the vision of their continental organization and pull their resources and economic endowments to integrate their economies to promote free flow of regional trade which will help to bring peace in the region.

Dr. Gutu suggested that leaders of African countries need to increase their commitment to the vision of their continental organization and pull their resources and economic endowments to integrate their economies to promote free flow of regional trade which will help to bring peace in the region.  

The AU has now managed to establish the core documents and action plans for AfCFTA but the process as mentioned above is far more complicated than it appears. Although it is much closer to the visions of the founding fathers of the continental organization, African countries are not on the same pace and desire for its implementation.

Since its foundation, the former OAU and the AU had to grapple with various wars and coups that marred the political unity under the auspices of the regional organization. Interference into the internal affairs of AU member countries, the economic damages, conflicts and COVID-19 have inflicted on Africa. Poverty issues that still heavily linger on the continent are issues on which African countries need to work under the auspices of the AU.

Based on its charter and vision of the founding members of the continental organization, over the last decade, the AU has achieved various successes as it was better organized and staffed.

For instance AU initiative of “ Silencing the Guns by 2020” is a landmark effort in ascertaining peace in the continent through the coordination of Peace and Security Council is noticeable. Moreover,  AU exerted relentless efforts in bringing peace in the conflict in the DRC, Central Africa, Somalia, Mali, South Sudan, Burundi, Guinea Bissau and Libya.

Among other things, the AU sponsored AMISOM peacekeeping force in Somalia has helped to keep Al-Shababa and other terrorist forces at bay in Somalia as part of a sustained peace in the country.

 Formation of the AU led Conflict Early Warning System to detect and take precautions on possible areas of conflicts is another achievement registered by the organization.

All told, although it is impossible to say that the AU and its predecessor OAU have achieved every dream of the founding fathers of the organization, the AU has done a lot in cooperation with other global organizations and member states to achieve the objectives for which it is established.