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Scholars at a panel discussion held at the African Union (AU) reiterated their demand for the advocacy of Pan Africanism and its values and benefits to bring about oneness among the societies on the continent. The need for Africans to know each other better was underlined at the panel.
As part of the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/ African Union (AU), a panel discussion on Pan Africanism and the AU’s Quest for Political Unity was held on March 21, at the AU headquarters. Three scholars from the Addis Ababa University (AAU), the oldest university in the nation and the initiator of the panel discussion, the AU and the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), held discussions on Pan Africanism, the history, challenges, limitations and achievements of the OAU/AU.
Pan Africanism has its roots in the struggle of the African people against enslavement and colonization. The movement, as a movement of liberation, has encouraged freedom fighters to engage in armed struggle to liberate Africa and, as a movement of integration, has consistently advocated African unity in the post colonial era, according to panelists. Nevertheless, the issue of Pan Africanism has always been raised and discussed by high political officials. Generations to come have many things to learn from the movement and actors of this movement; former freedom fighters, they said. Panelists further insisted that the values of the movement spread to the grassroots level to bring about practical unity and integrity among the societies on the continent. “We need to embrace Pan Africanism as a value at this period of Africa,” said Wafula Okumu, a Pan Africanist from the AU, quoting a 2008 AU publication and an article published in the International Studies Journal. “The AU should challenge African institutions, from elementary schools to universities, to have courses that have components strictly reflecting and dictating Pan Africanism, while making forums like this available,” He said.
One of the challenges for the oneness among Africans and the promotion of Pan Africanism is lack of [Pan Africanist] values that define who an African is. “We Africans don’t know each other,” said Cham Ugala Uriat (Ambassador), Inspector General at MoFA. “As an Ethiopian you go to West Africa, and you meet somebody who asks you where you are from.” According to him, this is common even within the country. “When I walk along the streets of Addis, somebody will ask me where I am from. We are just at that level,” Cham told the gathering. “If we talk about unity and if we really mean it, I think we have to address our people at the grassroots level.”
The other issue that is eroding unity is visa issues, according to Wafula. “It is more difficult for an African to go to another African country than to Europe, “he stated.
Meanwhile, the panelists called for the AU to develop a new paradigm that understands African problems from African perspectives and to come up with solutions – African solutions. “What we have seen in the past is that the continent’s problems have been perceived from the western point of view, and because of that, the solutions we have had was based on what they think Africa was, which often ended up causing catastrophe,” noted a panelist.
At the panel, the contribution that Ethiopia, the oldest independent African Nation, made both for Pan Africanism and the AU was praised by Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Commissioner for the AU, who noted that, at the end of the 50th Year Golden Jubilee next year in May, the AU would host the 8th Pan African Congress. “Ethiopia has paid the ultimate price in many ways for freedom and justice for the continent,” he said.