African Union what next?

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At last, Africa has got its Union! it may have been 40 years too late, but the launch, in Durban on 9 july, was historic. "We are now one"--at least on paper and in our hearts. But the question now on every African lip is: How do we realise the cherished dream of a united, strong Africa? Pusch Commey reports from Durban.

The new African Union (AU) was born out of necessity, occasioned by the end of the Cold War, globalisation and the need for a fundamental change of the iniquitous international economic system. As President Mohammed Abdelaziz of the Saharawi Arab Republic put it: "In this brave new world, there is no room for the weak." The Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddaffi, milked the applause in Durban's ABSA stadium where the AU was finally born. Gaddafi, in fact, deserved all the encomiums heaped on him by the adoring crowd for having led the charge for the Union.

Credit, too, was given to the founding fathers-- especially Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who was far ahead of his time.

Amara Essy, the interim chairman of the AU Commission, said it better in his address: "When we mention Kwame Nkrumah, we have summed up in one name the appeal of all our heroes and precursors who, from the embryonic stage of pan-Africanism to the doors of our present situation, have embodied our thirst for justice and dignity."

"Never again," Essy vowed, "will another mind than the African mind define Africa. Never again will Africa's children accept slavery, racism or any form of oppression. Never again will non-Africans define Africa."

He knew what he was talking about. For, before the launch, the Western media had already begun to sow divisions. The old dirty tricks were already underway. And much was made in South Africa's "white press" about Gadaffi: His "dictatorship", the military hardware he brought along, even his food, female bodyguards, and finally, he was a rival to Thabo Mbeki and wanted to rule Africa.

It was a throwback to the formation of the OAU when similar charges were levelled against Nkrumah. But the good colonel from Libya had seen it all before, and would not take the bait. Rather, he voiced strong support for Mbeki, saying that it was fitting that the last country to be liberated by the OAU should receive the honour of hosting the birth of the AU.

The Western media had made big play with the hypothesis that Gaddafi would use his petro-dollars to bribe weaker African states to do his bidding--to make him president of Africa--pretending not to know that his petro-dollars come from the very Western countries that need his oil and thus do a roaring business with him. So why shouldn't Africa, too?

The principle of non-interference in neighbours' affairs will change. There will be a pan-African parliament, a court of justice, a central bank and a single currency. There will also be a common electoral standard.

The AU will even meet in December...

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