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In his famous poem, ‘Harlem’, first published in 1951, the eminent African American poet, writer, thinker and activist, Langston Hughes, asked challenging questions when he wrote:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore - And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over - like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Meaning of the birth of the African Union
The birth of the African Union a Decade ago in 2002 promised all Africans on our Continent and the African Diaspora that they would at last realise their sustained dream for genuine all-round emancipation.
Ten years after the AU was formed, the question must be answered - has the dream been realised, or has it been deferred?
The very 1st Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union launched the Union in Durban, South Africa on July 9, 2002. Accordingly, its 10th anniversary fell only six days before the convening at its Headquarters in Addis Ababa of its 19th Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government, on July 15, 2012.
All Africans, and others beyond our shores, expected, naturally, that this 19th Assembly would take advantage of the fact of the 10th Anniversary of the Union to engage in a serious, systematic and strategic review of the road that Africa has travelled over the last decade, assess where we are today, and chart the way forward for the Second Decade of the Union.
Sadly, this matter of decisive importance with regard to the future and welfare of the billion Africans and their Continent, as well as the African Diaspora, was not even set down as part of the Agenda of the 19th Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government!
Instead, at least as this relates to what was communicated to the African masses at home and abroad, the principal and especial focus of the 19th Assembly was the election of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), arising from the embarrassing and debilitating failure of the 18th Assembly, six months earlier, to elect this Chairperson.
Both the 18th and the 19th Assemblies, the only ones that will be held during the year of the 10th Anniversary of the AU, were consumed by the eminently subsidiary matter of who should chair the AU Commission, reflecting the malaise that is poisoning the African body politic.
The very obvious fact, in terms of the Statutes of the AU, is that however potentially powerful, the Chairperson of the AUC is merely the most senior civil servant of the AU, which is of course important. However, this Chairperson cannot determine AU and therefore African policy, as this is decided by the Foreign Ministers’ meeting as the AU Executive Council and the Heads of State and Government, meeting as the AU Assembly. Of course, it is possible for the AU Commission, led by its Chairperson, to present policy initiatives or interventions to the constitutional structures of the AU, and thus to act as more than a mere administrative structure.
We are also mindful of decisions that have been taken to review the mandates and functioning of the AU organs created by the Constitutive Act.
The 18th Assembly did not take the necessary decisions to prepare for the appropriate celebration of the 1st Decade of the AU.
The 19th Assembly said absolutely nothing about helping to determine what Africa’s view is concerning where our Continent should be a decade hence, relating to the complex and integrated vision spelt out in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, its binding law.
The failures of these Assemblies we have indicated communicate the hard and painful message that whereas Africa’s political leaders inspired the African masses with new and renewed hope when they launched the AU, in reality, as Africans, we made yet another false start!
Extracted from: The African Union at 10 years old. A dream deferred!
This article, by Thabo Mbeki, was originally published in the September edition of The Thinker. The complete article can be accessed on the Thabo Mbeki Foundation website, here.