Africa looks to next 50 years of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance

By Kwabena Opong

The African Union Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations organized a high level panel discussion and workshop on Wednesday, June 26 in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity/African Union at the United Nations in New York where the theme of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance were openly debated.

Opening the conference, H.E. Mr. Roble Olhaye, permanent representative of Djibouti to the UN and Chairman of the African Group for the month of June expressed confidence that the discussions would candidly explore and share ideas about Africa with its vibrant population and its march to progress. “Africa is emerging slowly but surely” as its economy grows from strength to strength. Change in African narratives 50 years on is coming, he said. Africa was insignificant 50 years ago but things are changing: “intra-African trade and the identification of the need to create markets within the continent is now the way forward,” Amb. Olhaye concluded.

In a statement read on her behalf by H.E. Mr. Tete Antonio, AU permanent observer to the United Nations, Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission said that the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) threw their unflinching support for the struggle against apartheid and colonialism and ensured the elimination of colonialism on the continent.

Unfortunately, according to Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, self reliance and economic independence remain elusive. Africa needs to develop human and resource capital and needs to act with greater speed for a free intra-African trade and the free movement of people, goods and capital. She also called for the empowerment of women for equal participation and to fight to restore the dignity of the African child, man and woman. She stressed cooperation with the African Diaspora.

Ambassador Tete Antonio added that the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU would go on all year round and encouraged Africans to organize workshops and discussions on Africa.

In his keynote address, Dr. Ali Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton said that despite the change of name from Organization of African Unity to African Union there has been continuity in the operation of the continental organization. He compared the change of name of the League of Nations to United Nations as falling in the same category of international organizations that held on to their original objectives. “The OAU and the AU is the whole story of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance,”the renowned academic said. He said that the African Union was borne out of the rivalry between Gadhafi and Thabo Mbeki.

The mission of the OAU was to maintain the inviolability of boundaries for fear of disturbing the stability of the continent. Thusly, the OAU was on the side of Nigeria during the country’s civil war against Biafra. The OAU was committed to decolonization, the defeat of apartheid and the end of white minority rule in Zimbabwe. It negotiated with governments and mediated among domestic contenders. What it could not do was to develop economic cooperation among member-states.

The African Union, on the other hand has adopted New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to engage Africans in trade and economic cooperation.

Prof. Mazrui, who is also Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agtriculture and Technology in Kenya said the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union similar to the United Nations Security Council has been successful in bringing peace to several warring member states. It provides peacekeeping in troubled areas as it is doing in Darfur, and worked and cooperated in the creation of Southern Sudan. ECOMOG, a creation of the ECOWAS also helped to bring to an end the war in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is currently providing peacekeeping in Mali after helping to oust the Salafist insurgents in the north of the country. Peace in Somalia is now a reality owing to the AU. Conflict prevention has also made some progress. The few cases of intervention could be considered as forms of pan-Africanism and cited Nigeria’s intervention in Sierra Leone with the support of the ECOWAS and Uganda in Rwanda in 1993 as examples. Dr. Mazrui said those interventions have a precedence in Tanzania’s expropriation of Zanzibar in the 1960s.

The veteran African academic discussed the variety of ways African leaders were removed, saying even though the OAU protected African leaders, corrupt as they could be, it did nothing to stop attacks on them.  Sylvanus Olympio of Togo was murdered as soon as his country became independent. Just as the OAU did nothing to save Emperor Haile Selassie, so could the AU not do anything to save Col. Gadhafi from being lynched. Tunisia sent its ousted president into exile. In Egypt, Mubarak was removed and sent to jail to face court action. Another solution to effect change was through the ballot box as happened in Ghana and Kenya.

In a question and answer session the panel moderated by Prof. Kwame Akonor of the Seton Hall University and Ambassador Doc Mashabane, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa, Dr. Ali Mazrui agreed with the suggestion that the International Criminal Court at the Hague was not fair to Africans. While leaders of the major powers were equally liable for some of the most destructive wars, they were not made accountable for their actions, while African leaders were dragged before the court and humiliated.

On President Obama’s trip to South Africa, Dr. Mazrui said it was historic as the president meets with former South African President Nelson Mandela. They both share the honor of being the first men of African origin to have achieved leadership in their two countries.  Unfortunately, Mr. Mandela is not well enough to meet the president.

Other panelists included Dr. Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, Institute of Security Studies Tswane, South Africa, Ms. Awa Dabo, Professor Horace Campbell of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and Ambassador Dr. Djibril Diallo.


The African Union in partnership with Universal Peace Federation hosted a dinner dance at the Manhattan Center in the evening where African cuisine and entertainment were showcased.

Posted by on Jul 12 2013. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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