Salim Ahmed Salim and Ketema Yifru
In a letter he wrote to the current Secretary General of the OAU, Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim, on May 04, 1990, Ketema Yifru articulated the hopes and visions he had for the organization that he, more than any other, had helped to create. The letter he wrote to Mr. Salim reads as follows;
It has been my pleasure to bring to light the history behind the creation of the OAU.
The creation of the Organization of African Unity was indeed a significant historic moment for the continent of Africa, especially in an era where a number of African countries were still under colonial rule. Once the OAU was set up, Africans were able to come together under the umbrella of their newly formed organization. With a concerted voice, the African continent was now able to fight the evil forces of colonialism. Through the OAU's liberation committee and the United Nations, Africans were able to work collectively to bring about an end to colonialism. The plight of the African people that was once dismissed by many was now heard by the entire world. Indeed, Pan-Africanism, which was the driving force of the continent in the 1960s, had proved the point that every obstacle that Africa was faced with could be solved through the unity of its people.
In the early years of its creation, the OAU was able to conduct its own successful brand of conflict resolution. The Ethio-Somalia conflicts, the Kenya-Somalia conflict, and the Algeria-Morocco conflict are examples of how the OAU was able to divert potential wars by peaceful means. At that time, it seemed that Africans had come to a point where they had mastered the art of solving their own problems with their own brand of solutions. A conflict in the continent, wherever its location maybe, was never left untouched. The Panafricanist atmosphere of the 1960s had brought with it an understanding that any conflict in Africa, regardless of its geographical location, was an African problem. It was with this positive outlook that our leaders were able to successfully solve conflicts, which now seem to be unsolvable.
Now, however, all that has changed. The flames of Pan-Africanism that once burnt bright in the hearts of many, seem to have died out. Pan-Africanism that was the driving force for the success of the OAU, in its early years, is now a thing of the past. It has now come to a point where there seems to be no end to the various conflicts and problems that have plagued the African continent for many years. Slowly but surely, Africa seems to be disappearing from the international forum.
One wonders if the OAU should play a leadership role in creating a forum where Africans could genuinely search for solutions to the problems that they are facing today. There are some, however, who strongly believe that the OAU has become ineffective. They say we should dismantle the organization and come up with a different one. It seems that it has become customary in Africa, to tear down what others have built through hard work. Would it not be more logical to build on what we have rather than destroying it for the purpose of starting from scratch? For instance, we could talk about amending the OAU Charter, which was meant for a different time and era. "Non-Interference in the Internal Affairs of Member States" is one part of the charter that has to be revised. In the sixties, the Non-Interference clause was included in the charter to appease those states, which strongly believed that the government of Ghana was involved in both the death of Togo's President, Mr. Sylvanus Olympio, and the change in government that soon followed. The None-Interference clause has served its purpose in 1963, because without it many states perhaps might have refused to sign the Charter of the Organization of African Unity.
Ketema Yifru and Diallo Telli (late sixties)
Today, being a different time and era, it seems the people of Africa want the OAU to interfere in the internal affairs of their countries. There is a consensus among Africans that the OAU should interfere in countries where there is gross human rights violations, civil wars, and other major catastrophes to name a few. We have to understand that nothing is written in stone. The founding fathers themselves, had included Article XXX111 in the Charter, fully aware that there might be a need for change in the future. Article XXX111 reads, "This Charter may be amended or revised if any Member State makes a written request to the Administrative Secretary-General to the effect; provided that the proposed amendment is not submitted to the Assembly until all the Members States have been duly notified of it and a period of one year has elapsed. Such amendments shall not be effective unless approved by at least two-thirds of all Member States."
Ketema Yifru and Salim Ahmed Salim
If the people see it fit, those who are in charge should make the necessary changes to give the people what their hearts desire. For example, the great Constitution, which all Americans are proud of, was originally different from the one we see today. As times have changed, so have the needs and priorities of the American people. As a result, through the years, American lawmakers have made a number of amendments to their constitution, so that it could better handle the ever so changing priorities of the American people.
Even though the OAU is located in a continent, which has very few resources, I believe that if our governments are willing to make the appropriate changes, the OAU might rise to the occasion and become a leader in finding solutions to the problems that we are faced with today.
This article is dedicated to the Founding Fathers of the OAU and to the late Ato Ketema Yifru and his former colleagues, who, through brotherhood and cooperation, made it possible for Africa to have a voice in the international forum during the 1960s.
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