The Guardian August 1, 2001


New African Union

by Steve Lawton

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which met for the 37th time last 
month in Lusaka, Zambia, was historic in that it decided to create a new 
organisation called the African Union. African nations are in the course of 
making a comprehensive reappraisal of the priorities of the African 
continent.

Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who first projected the need for 
change at a special OAU conference in September 1999, led the initiative 
for a new organisation. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan paid tribute to him 
for "spearheading this development".

Since then a number of governments have been engaged in formulating an 
Africa-wide political, economic and social framework that would tackle both 
continental survival and real development.

In Lusaka the 53 state leaders and ministers agreed to merge two major 
strands into the New African Initiative: The Millennium African Recovery 
Plan headed by South African President Thabo Mbeki, and the Omega Plan led 
by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade.

An all-Africa parliament, executive council and central bank are to be 
created. They hope to have everything up and running by the time of the 
next AU summit in South Africa next year.

Collective approach

With about three-quarters of the world's worst off nations, Africa has 
little choice but to take an active collective approach.

It has major pandemics afflicting and killing millions, widespread 
destitution, persistent wars that affect half of the African states and 
depletion of the resources for the benefit of transnationals at the expense 
of its peoples.

The global realignment of imperialism between the US and the European 
Union, and Asian regional economic co-ordination with China at its heart, 
has led African leaders to seek a more effective place on the international 
stage.

China's Premier Zhu Rongji sent the conference a solidarity message lauding 
the OAU's history since 1963 of struggling for African solidarity, unity, 
national independence and liberation.

He linked China's co-operation with the modern initiative for greater 
African integration, to the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation held in 
Beijing last October. That set out a new basis of working together as the 
OAU began its transformation.

Outgoing OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said the changes were 
necessary if there was to be any chance of achieving "a stronger and united 
continent".

They have "no other option but to remain together because separately none 
of us can make it, and individual linkages with the outside world are not 
viable", he said.

Zimbabwe

It is therefore not surprising that African leaders slammed the British 
Government for leading an international effort to "isolate and vilify" 
Zimbabwe as it proceeds with its land reform program.

"This is not the way Africa works", the Ugandan High Commissioner, George 
Kirya, said. "We work in a collective manner. We find there are some people 
who are trying to isolate Zimbabwe."

He said Europe and the US are "siding with Britain and I think this is why 
the leaders in Africa are saying that this problem ought to be solved, and 
they can only do it if they collectively find a solution to it."

Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe insists that Britain is liable for the 
payment of compensation for expropriated land, while the British Government 
barely disguises its hostility, refusing to recognise the way the reform is 
carried out.

The 12 million of 30 million hectares of land designated for 5,000 black 
landless inhabitants was never likely to be given up by the white farmers 
through a gentleman's agreement. The very idea of this land reform is 
anathema to capitalist property relations and the powerful precedent it 
sets.

From moves to isolate Zimbabwe to the threat of sanctions, we see that when 
real challenges occur, global vested interests always attempt to stick the 
boot in. That is why the AU is defending Zimbabwe and is intent on taking 
the offensive.

Even though there is some progress in achieving a cessation of conflict in 
some African countries, these have often been short-lived. So the 
effectiveness of the AU's members over the coming year is crucial for its 
legitimacy.

The collective solution of Africa's problems ultimately rests with re-
drawing the economic relationship with the big capitalist powers and the 
transnationals.

A former UN development-director Bimal Ghosh pointed out in the 
"International Herald Tribune" (11.7.01) that "African countries will find 
it hard to diversify their economies if rich nations continue to impose 
higher tariffs when Africans strive to process their own raw materials for 
export abroad as part of their belated move toward industrialisation and 
technological upgrading".

On the other hand, China has just announced a cut in Tanzania's and 
Zanzibar's debts and arranged no-strings loans.

The new Chairman of the OAU, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, said: 
"With the ongoing unprecedented acceleration of technological change and 
the consequences of globalisation with its attendant competitiveness, 
regional economic co-operation assumes even greater importance and 
urgency."

The AU initiative, set against efforts to re-fashion the role of drug 
transnationals in South Africa and beyond, is a clear pointer suggesting 
that more strident action is to follow.

* * *
The New Worker

Back to index page