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Senegal's Wade pushes for United States of Africa, roughhouse style

Thursday August 6 2009

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. Photo/FILE

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. Photo/FILE 

In a recent symposium on the envisaged United States of Africa at the Cheik Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, President Abdoulaye Wade criticised African leaders for putting a premium on the protection of their states’ sovereignty.

The downside of the recourse to sovereignty is its assumption that other Africans are foreigners against whom power must be protected. This thinking also denies African economies larger markets for their products.

“Sovereignty” also masks the weakness of Africans at a time when other people have pooled political power in vast territories like China, India, Brazil, Russia and the United States of America. The very colonial countries that were the “foreigners” against whom independent African states wished to protect their sovereignty are themselves building the European Union as a bigger source of power in the global arena.

In a twist of this thesis President Wade asserted that “in order to protect sovereign independence and be heard in the international political order, Africa must become a viable economic power” within a United States of Africa.

The subject of ‘sovereignty’ also led President Wade warn the European Union over its devious to plot to “take North Africa out of Africa” by enjoining North African States into a new “Mediterranean Union” of Europe, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. An angry Wade noted that Europe was doing this despite its contradictory behaviour of hunting down, drowning and shutting out the so-called “economic migrants/asylum seekers” from Africa, while openly welcoming economic refugees from the former Eastern Europe.

Wade said he had told Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi that “he should leave Libya’s oil here on the continent” if he wanted to join Europe.

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In the same breath, Wade told President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt that “Egypt should leave the pyramids in Africa”. In the worst scenario President Wade would relocate the seat of sovereignty to vital resources.

In the Dakar symposium, President Wade was talking to a receptive generation of intellectuals loaded with disillusionment over bad governance allover Africa outside Botswana and South Africa.

Sovereignty’s strongest defenders, like the Germany-based Prof Willy Jackson and University of Lagos’s Prof Victor Adetula, argued for sovereignty’s redefinition as “solidarity around the notion of a common good and a sharing of resources” rather than its current focus on balkanised territorial states. Prof Adetula called for a more vigorous role by the civil servants who run the African Union’s bureaucracy to evolve it into a vigorous super entity to coordinate of public administration by local officials in each African country.

There were echoes in their calls of Mwalimu Nyerere’s emphasis on seeing Africans as one family united beyond borders. Their pleas echoed President Wade’s hunger for a rapid rush to a United States of Africa. He had, after all, proudly said that he was not an alien in relation to Nigeria.

“I have interfered in Guinea, in Madagascar and everybody will accept [that] because of the deep reality of relations between African states.”

The Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, the Gabonese Jean Ping, spoke in the same vein, saying, “I told Mauritania I have been paid by the African Union to come and interfere in your internal politics.” Mauritania’s military top brass had thrown out of power a regime that had been “democratically elected” in elections which the same brass had supervised.

The one thing that Mr Ping shared most usefully with Senegal’s Foreign Minister, Dr Cheik Tidiane Gadio, was a vigorous determination to provide a detailed and extensive explanation to the assembly of Africa’s intellectuals about the workings of African international politics whenever heads of states meet.

It all sounded like a ritual of regret that a 46- years old legacy (since the Organisation of African Unity was formed in 1963), had been an ill-informed troop of intellectuals that couldn’t be trusted to rush to the barricades and toss out of history and office all the renegade leaders who are dragging their feet over the creation of a United States of Africa.

The summit of intellectuals was taking place soon after President Wade’s party had been badly beaten in parliamentary and civic elections. Wade’s own son had been humiliated in a contest for the Mayor of Dakar. Opposition parties had ganged up to beat the lad because they smelt a plot by Wade to position the scion to succeed him as a candidate for the presidency.

As payment for their humiliation of his party, President Wade refused to have all opposition figures invited to the symposium.

That determination to exclude rivals was also reflected in the banners that hung around the plenary hall.

Not seen was a picture of W.E.B. Dubois --- the globally acknowledged father of Pan-Africanism as an intellectual and political movement. Also absent was the picture of Diallo Telli, the founding Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity. Diallo Telli held a doctorate in Law and Public Administration from the Sorbonne -- France’s intellectual nerve centre.

Ignored OAU founders

It was widely reported that President Sekou Toure of Guinea had described Diallo Telli as “Guinea’s gift to Africa” when he released Diallo Telli from being his ambassador to the United Nations. There was, therefore, something loudly obscene in having photographs of President Wade and Colonel Gaddafi side by side as the stars of Pan-Africanism while Dubois, Telli, Tom Mboya, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe and others looked down in mocking silence.

President Wade’s cry that “we cannot be kept into a limited space” by African leaders who are holding on to petty little states had once been made by a Chinese leader with typical oriental sneer.

China’s President Ma-Ying-jeou had told African leaders that Africa had the largest number of countries inside the United Nations General Assembly while China was the biggest single member with the biggest population. It’s as if the 53 African flags flapped at the United Nations building in New York with less force in the wind than China’s one flag.

Wade’s proposition that the symposium should urgently “establish a Committee of African Intellectuals for the Study of the United States of Africa” makes sense.

His call for each African country to put aside 20 per cent of its annual budget to create an “African External Reserve Fund” that would back a common African currency is also sensible. His warning that Africans should force their leaders to “get out of the sovereignty trap” is eminently wise.

What Wade failed to address is that odd question: “Who shall be the first and non-monarchical president of the United States of Africa?”

Many could not believe Kwame Nkrumah, even when he confided in those closest to him that his wish was that the cup of leading a Union Government of Africa should go to Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

Africa Insight is an initiative of the Nation Media Group’s Africa Media Network Project