African Union commemorates 50th anniversary of continental organization
Summit in Ethiopia acknowledged by Detroit MECAWI conference on imperialism
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Pan-African News Wire
On May 25, 1963, 33 independent African states met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The purpose of the summit 50 years ago was to enhance cooperation between member states and to accelerate the liberation struggles of those countries that still remained under colonial rule.
Five decades later, the OAU has been transformed into the African Union, which was established in 2002 in Durban, South Africa. In 1963, white minority rule was deeply entrenched in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia (then known as Northern and Southern Rhodesia), Namibia (then known as Southwest Africa) as well as the former Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.
The African Union was designed to continue the vision of the radical anti-imperialist states of the early 1960s, which were led by leaders such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Gamal Abdel Nassar of Egypt, Ben Bella of Algeria and others who were pushing for stronger ties between post-colonial governments in order to effectively challenge the hegemony of Europe and the United States.
In 1999, at a meeting in Sirte, Libya, the former leader of the Jamahiriya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, called for the realization of the Nkrumaist vision of continental union government that would encompass a common currency, military force, human rights court and parliament.
Although this was not agreed upon in 2002 at the AU founding, some progress has been made in regard to gender equality, the establishment of a Pan-African Parliament based in South Africa and the rudimentary basis for an African standby force to address internal conflicts throughout the continent.
This year’s AU Summit is meeting under the theme “Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.” The event began on May 19 and extended to May 27.
During the opening session on May 19, the African Union said that “the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has called for the general acceptance and understanding about the rise of Africa over the last five decades in terms of economic growth, public investment, infrastructure and regional integration as well as improvement in democracy and governance, peace and stability, and some human development indicators, among others.”
These statements were made to the Permanent Representatives Committee of the AU. During the course of the Summit, all the organs of the continental organization, which has 54 member-states, will hold deliberations on a number of issues including peace and security, gender affairs, culture, civil society and economic development.
The AU Web site reported that the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC Erastus Mwencha, AUC commissioners, and representatives from the diplomatic corps, the international community, the civil society and the private sector attended the opening ceremony.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in her address, highlighted the fact that the OAU/AU founders had to construct newly independent states and develop a vision and plans for continental integration, on the foundation of the fragmentation and destruction caused by centuries of colonization. (Her full speech is available on the AU Web site, www.au.int)
In Detroit, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) held a conference May 18 entitled “Africa and U.S. Imperialism.”
The event was a day-long gathering featuring lectures and reports on the 50-year history of the national liberation struggles and nation-building efforts in Africa.
The conference was held in solidarity with the AU 50th anniversary and delved into the struggles aimed at building national democratic revolutions and socialism in various African states, such as Ghana, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Egypt, Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa.
Speakers identified continuing western interference in the internal affairs of independent African states as a major impediment to national and continental development.
Speakers at the conference included Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Edozie’s presentation was related to an upcoming book she will be publishing by the end of this year.
Edozie, an expert on the history and development of the OAU and the AU, spoke on the topic “The Evolving African Supra-State: Accomplishments, Pitfalls and Continuing Challenges for the African Union.” She related the political developments on the African continent over the last few decades with efforts by African Americans to achieve self-determination and genuine equality.
Attorney Jeff Edison, the former president of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), presented a paper entitled “The U.S. Military in Africa: Unwanted and Unlawful,” which was written by another leading NCBL member and past President Mark Fancher.
NCBL has challenged successive U.S. administrations since its formation in 1968 on the role of Washington’s foreign policy towards the African continent.
The conference was concluded by Venezuelan Consul General Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza, who spoke via videotape from Chicago on “Venezuelan Foreign Policy in Africa: Opposition to Intervention and International Solidarity.”
He pointed out that Venezuela, under the late President Hugo Chavez Frias, opposed the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervention against Libya in 2011 as well as the French military intervention in Mali, which began in January 2013. He also noted that the Africa-South America summits, the second of which was held in Venezuela in 2009, were a cornerstone of his country’s foreign policy.