The grand celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU was held in our capital last weekend. Glittering with bright and colorful lights, some of the streets and main roads of Addis Ababa were observed to be unusually clean and without the crowded and hectic scene quite common in Addis these days. Over 50 Heads-of-State gathered in Ethiopia for a day or two to commemorate the establishment of an organization that has contributed in various ways to the development and stability of the African continent. We all know or should at least be aware of the history of the OAU/AU, as it has been given extensive coverage in the media, over and over again. Many consider the AU to be an extravagant, resource-wasting organization, usually inefficient and sometimes downright ineffective. After the transition from the Organization for African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU), some said that the organization went astray of the very premise on which it was built; to encourage Pan-Africanism and the unity of all African countries. The OAU has contributed, to some extent, to the goals of African unity as it had worked to eradicate the rule of colonialism and helped states gain their independence.
After 50 years, although it seems that progress has been made (it is true some progress has been made) and we don’t have to worry about direct white rule or apartheid, it looks as though there is a different kind of rule that is evident throughout the continent.
We are all in debt, massive debt; debt that we would not be able to pay for years to come. Although we have so much untapped resources that make the rest of the world salivate with envy, we still manage to sell ourselves short, and in the end, have never really benefitted from anything.
We have not yet reached the level where we are capable of leading the continent with our own vision; a vision of a better Africa. As comparisons go, we are like the head of a body and the developed world turns the head whichever way it wants, acting like the neck. This continent has never fully been seen in a positive light; never. Even during the 50th Anniversary celebration, giant international media tend to underline the negative sides, before they start mentioning the positive aspects of the continent. Sure, we have problems, we Africans. Poverty is rampant; we have dictators; a high crime rate; diseases…you name it, we probably have it. But there is always, always another side. The other side of Africa is magnificent. It may be a cliché to say this, but the potential of this continent is really immeasurable.
Sadly, we remain handicapped when it comes to exploring our own potential. We are sitting on massive wealth but conversely remain buried in debt and poverty. This side of our history seems to have been indelibly etched on the minds of most of the rest of the world, and it is extremely difficult to erase it in the short term. Difficult? Yes, but not quite impossible.
What does all this really have to do with the AU? Well, everything actually. The main goal of the organization was to promote unity and intensify co-operation amongst ourselves, ensuring that all of us exercise our human rights, and raise the living standards of all Africans.
Looking at the aims and set goals of the OAU/AU after 50 years, have we really achieved all we set out to do? I’ll leave it to you to answer that question for yourself.
As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary, we need to, not only talk about the 50 years ahead, but also need to look back, to the beginning, to the point in time where Africans said enough was enough, to the point where they actually realized and spoke out that they indeed deserved more.
After 50 years, today, we still deserve more. We deserve education, health care, human rights protection, security and much more. The difference is that now, we don’t have colonialism to put the blame on anymore, but ourselves.
Opportunity for a better future still presents itself for all Africans if only the ones that are in the driving seat begin to see that there actually would be enough of everything for everybody.
If only they had a vision, a vision of greater things…
It has been said that Africa is a sleeping giant and it has been sleeping for many years. We cannot afford to dose for another 50 years, because if we do, we will continue to lose.
The one thing hardship teaches us is to persevere and look for a different way out of our predicament. There is always a choice and in all situations there is a better alternative. It is time for the continent to make that choice and make it today rather than tomorrow. This is the lesson learnt from the 50 years of “African Unity”; we need to revisit the dark period of African history to understand, once again, what we must do in order to attain and enjoy a better future.