African Union turns 60: Continent has made modest gains, but should ‘have done better’ – policy expert
- Only 12 African countries have Africa Day as a public holiday.
- The AU, at 60, has made modest gains and can do better, says leading academic Professor Lumumba.
- Thabo Mbeki says the AU has the instruments to deal with issues, but the challenge is implementation.
On the 60th anniversary of the African Union (AU), various former heads of state, leading academics and pan-African organisations called for the continent to strive to stop all conflicts and seek progress.
The AU was formed on 25 May 1963, when about 60% of African countries had attained independence.
The continental body was known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) until 2002.
It was not the first time African leaders had gathered for a similar purpose.
In April 1958, in Accra, Ghana, eight African countries, which had already gained independence, gathered to celebrate Africa.
After 60 years, a lot has been done to move the organisation, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly in governance, democracy, human rights, economic emancipation and positioning Africa in a fast-changing modern world’s geopolitics.
“Africa has made gains, but those have been modest. We could have done better,” said Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, one of Kenya’s foremost public policy specialists.
The AU celebrates 60 years of independence as a civil war pits two military camps against each other in Sudan.
It’s a major setback for the AU’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative.
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Throughout the Sahel region, coups have made a comeback and Islamic extremism is gaining ground.
It is spreading to the southern parts of the continent, such as the oil- and gas-rich Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.
It’s the same in central Africa, where the Democratic Republic of the Congo is engaged in a somewhat never-ending civil war in the eastern part of the country, and more than a hundred militia groups are making the country ungovernable.
There’s the huge impact of climate change on the continent, contributing to famine, conflict and migration.
“With nine out of the 10 most vulnerable countries in the world located on the continent, Africa is the least climate-resilient region globally. The severe impact of climate change on Africa underscores the urgent need to prioritise efforts towards combating its adverse effects,” said Armand Nzeyimana, the acting director of the development impact and results department at the African Development Bank.
Only 12 African countries have Africa Day as a public holiday – Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia and Mauritania.
Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, is currently in Conakry, the capital city of Guinea, under the auspices of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
On Saturday, the foundation will have its 13th annual Africa Day Lecture.
Talking to the press in Conakry on Thursday, Mbeki said the AU had the instruments to deal with numerous problems on the continent, but the challenge was implementing it.
“The strategy for African unity is in the policies of the AU, the challenge is in the implementation. As Africans, together, we must focus on the implementation of policies that have been drafted by us,” he said.
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Brian Kagoro, the director of justice and intersectionality at Open Society Foundations, quoting from Willy Mutunga, the former Chief Justice of Kenya, encouraged Africa to learn from others to become progressive.
“Let’s not engage in this romantic view that there can only be one way to learn. We first must indigenise knowledge, and learn from our culture and traditions. We must diversify who we learn from. We cannot only learn from the West, we need to learn from everybody who has something to teach.
“We must domesticate what we learn. The narrative is by first and foremost realising self-worth, self-belief, and looking inward, so that when you look outward it is to supplement not in a state of nothingness and inferiority,” he said.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.