The African Union

Thirty-eight years ago, the founding fathers created the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to combat colonialism and to bring about a forum where all members could gather together under one roof and discuss the issues of the day. Today, it seems that some members of the OAU have realized that more has to be done to combat the problems that are facing the African continent. While July 11, 2001, marked the end of the OAU, it brought with it promises of hope and glory. The 53 African Heads of State, who gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, agreed to replace the OAU with a much more cohesive body in hopes of bringing unity and prosperity to the African continent. Indeed, for an African, what could be better than to hear about the newly proposed African Union? 

Unfortunately, even those of us who are supporters of an African Union have become very skeptical. While the concept of the Union brings joy to our hearts, the African reality has forced our dreams of joy to silently disappear in the night. 

 The African continent is plagued with enormous problems, such as hunger, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and many deadly conflicts, just to name a few. In this day and age, when the rest of the world is focused on issues such as technological advancement, many in Africa are either on the brinks of hunger, or have been infected with the deadly HIV/AIDS virus. A significant number continue to be affected by the many raging conflicts of the continent. The situation has turned from bad to worst: important issues, such as HIV/AIDS or the staggering unemployment rate, do not seem to be a priority.

With such enormous problems one might think that the very best are at the helm steering the continent out of harms way. Unfortunately, little can be said about the leadership in Africa. It has now become a tradition in Africa to hold on to power at all cost. We have blamed colonialism, the Cold War and Neocolonialism for the various problems that we have had regarding leadership in the past. Sadly, yesterdays problems are very much part of the political landscape of today. Little has changed: only a few States have placed the destiny of their peoples in their own hands. Many, on the other hand, continue to silence the voices of change. Dissention in most African countries is considered to be a crime, and as a result many have lost their lives or are languishing in prison cells. Such brutality has forced the very best to seek employment abroad, where their expertise and leadership qualities are well appreciated. 

The founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity created the organization in hopes of ridding the rest of the continent from the grips of colonialism. While it was successful in combating colonialism, the OAU has failed to address the various problems that have plagued the continent. It now remains to be seen if the African Union will be bold enough to effectively address burning issues, such as the leadership problem in Africa, HIV/AIDS, hunger, and conflict, just to name a few. Success for the African Union can only be measured by how far it is willing to break away from the status quo. Hopefully, some member states, which have embraced the political system of accountability, will some how spread the message beyond their own borders.

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