Friday, July 06, 2007

The African Union - An "Old Boys" Association

The recent African Union summit has once again raised the prospect of a United States of Africa . Whether this is ever going to be likely , Socialist Banner serious doubts , since there are often too many inter-capitalist rivalries for such an entity to exist . Not too mention the overblown giant egos of some of the African nation's leaders

We reprint an article from African Socialist No. 5

THE AFRICAN UNION - An "Old Boys’ Association"?

At the 2nd AU summit in Maputo the BBC asked the new AU chairman, President Chissano of Mozambique to sum up in 30 seconds the achievements of the Union. His reply was " I don’t need the 30 seconds you have given me. Quite simply, we have more cohesion and more solidarity." What the BBC did not ask Chissano to clarify was the meaning of his first person plural of the pronoun "we". Did he use it to mean "we the masses of Africa" or "we the privileged few gathered here"? This is the question we, socialists (in Africa), are answering below.

In our part of the world it is not unusual for the alumni of an institution to form an "Old Boys’ Association". And it is important to be part of one, especially those of the institutions which are the preserve of the privileged in society. Such associations constitute some of the vital social networks, through which members can take undue advantage over others when it comes to employment, promotion, and other forms of scarce or "competitive" opportunities and needs. Even at its second summit, at such a teething stage, the AU already hinted noisily at its "Old Boyist" leanings.

The post of chairman of the AU Commission is a highly privileged and therefore "lucrative" job. It is the equivalent of the position of Secretary General in the erstwhile OAU. The struggle for that position was therefore expected to be a keen one but curiously enough, it was not. Amara Essy, the outgoing and interim chairman had foreseen a hot battle for his seat and made it clear he would not contest. Being at the helm of affairs at the AU, he had known for a long time that the heavyweights – Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Senegal – wanted the chairmanship of the Commission to the exclusive preserve of former heads of state. In fact he had noticed a very high preference for Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali to take the seat (even before he had completed his term of office as Malian President). According to speculations, which were rife at the secretariat in Addis Ababa, Olusegun Obasanjo would, as planned, come unto the throne after Konare’s term. These machinations were as far back as 2002.

But in spite of all the fears of Essy, his country’s president, Laurent Gbagbo would hear none of that. It was "for the good of La Cote d’Ivoire", the president reported to have insisted.
When the heavyweights realised that Cote d’Ivoire had put forward their man Essy’s candidature, they quickly talked to Gbagbo and that was it. The latter simply pulled the rug from underneath Essy without any second thoughts. When news of the incumbent’s withdrawal by his country reached the delegates at the summit, it was met with an outcry by many delegates who dismissed the AU as "a club of retired heads of state". But Abdoulie Wade, the Senegalese president, the charade in the following words "It does not matter who heads the AU as long as the person has the right profile to carry out his important task. The advantage that Alpha Oumar Konare has (which Amara Essy hasn’t) is that as a former head of state he can phone any other head of state, even go and see them without having to organise an official meeting, something which another person cannot." What stupidity!

But this does not surprise us in the least because even from the very onset, the Eminent Persons Advisory Panel was constituted from among the same "old boys". They include individuals who have worked or are still working with the UN system, the OAU, or have been presidents or heads of state before. They definitely must have rubbed shoulders with each other for years and collectively perfected in the art of hoodwinking the masses with deliberate diplomatic untruths. If, therefore, such a selected few cannot have cohesion, who else can? These are people who can never understand the plight of the suffering masses because they are so far away from reality.

As for the overwhelming majority of the African people, the AU is a concept that they have either never heard of (not with this pervasive illiteracy here), or they are too busy looking for food to take any note of it. Thus, it is only in this context that Chissano’s "we" can be understood.


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