THE UNITED STATES OF AFRICA
THE UNITED STATES OF AFRICA
Can It Ever Be?
(By Lanre Arogundade)
On the surface, the idea looks attractive, especially given the way the proponents present it. They pick the argument from a sore point. They argue that Africans were once united until the colonialists drew artificial boundaries that left the people divided and alienated. And they sound as if the divisions will evaporate, once the boundaries are dismantled. They then add for emphasis that in order to overcome the problems of war, famine, poverty, disease and ethnicity, a United States of Africa is an immediate imperative.
That the July 1-3, 2007 summit of the African Union with the single-agenda of “Proposal for Continental Government” is taking place in Accra, Ghana, gives the proponents added ammunition. Kwame Nkrumah fought for Pan-Africanism, they keep chorusing, so it would be a perfect monument to his memory if the United States of Africa could be established on Ghanaian soil.
Left to the hundreds of so-called NGO activists, the Ghana summit should simply proclaim the establishment of the United States of Africa (USA) ‘in order to respond to current and future economic, political and social changes’. Indeed, they had what they call a continental conference on ‘Accelerating Africa’s Integration and Development in the 21st Century’, at which they resolved to present a resolution to the summit backing their demand.
But it isn’t just an uncritical mass of activists and youths that they faced. Some wonder what the difference would be between the USA and the AU, and even the OAU before it for that matter, other than the change in names. At one of the public debates, an elderly activist from Ghana said a United States of Africa parading the likes of Kufour of Ghana, Jameh of The Gambia and Ghaddafi of Libya could only lead to continuing perpetuation of mass misery and repression which is the lots of most African people presently.
To be sure, many of the pro-USA campaigns smelt of Ghadaffi’s petrol-dollars. Never lacking in flamboyant propaganda, he had taken the campaign by road to Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire before storming the campus of the University of Ghana for a lecture on the eve of the summit. But beyond rhetoric, Gaddaffi, like many of his supporters only stand for a unity government at the top as against a united Africa of the working masses and their allies. At home Gaddafi at best practices benevolent dictatorship that brooks no opposition and that makes him the Libyan leader for life. He once appealed to young Africans on the basis of his anti-imperialism rhetoric and his stature actually grew when the US government under Ronald Reagan bombed his residence in an apparent assassination attempt in the 1980s.
But Ghaddafi would rather support or sponsor individual acts of terrorism rather than a united action of the working masses. He only made a u-turn after the US invaded Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein. Now, he is ready to make any deal with the West to bail out of economic doldrums and continue to rule forever.
Many other African leaders play lip-service to democracy and have made jailing of oppositionists their hall mark as they fail to deliver on promises to lift the people out of poverty, diseases and want. Certainly, they would have serious fear of a continental government that can make them accountable to African peoples and it was no surprise that they simply killed the idea at the Accra summit.
Africa, as continent remains a tragic story. Although blessed with vast natural and human resources, years of exploitation under landlordism, colonialism, imperialist exploitation and capitalist domination have left it the worst of all the continents.
Capitalist economic policies like privatization and commercialization of the commanding sectors of the economy have virtually killed the local industries with the multinationals taking over under a new colonialisation. Daily, hundreds of African youths perish on the high seas while desperately trying to cross to Europe to escape poverty, lack of education and joblessness. Millions continue to die of preventable or manageable diseases amidst wars and general impoverishment of the people.
With the above background, it is understandable why layers of the people yearn for a united Africa. However, the possibility of a complete United Africa under capitalism is zero. Assuming without conceding the United State of Africa becomes reality, it does not necessarily represent the interest of the African working people. It is impossible for capitalism to overcome the narrow limits of the nation state. It could partly create African Capital, customs union, etc, but on a whole number of issues, it will be very difficult. Only the working class in the respective countries has the potential of leading the struggles that will bring this about. The working class needs to step into the political arena to build her own political organizations that will spearhead the dismantling of the exploitative capitalist system and replace it with a socialist one under which the commanding sectors of the economies will be democratically managed and controlled by elected representatives of the people as organized in the unions, trade and professional groups, youth and women groups etc.
In the final analysis, only an African peasants and workers government could remove all the artificial barriers that currently stand between and separate African peoples, under a voluntarily agreed socialist federation or confederation of Africa.