The United States Of Africa: The Continent Debates

The African Union has been meeting in Accra, Ghana for the last three days to build a concensus on forming a continent (at least south of the Sahara) under one unified country. Is the United States of Africa possible?

According to news reports (and this is where reading more than one source comes in handy), the nations seem to be somewhat split over whether to charge ahead full-steam to make one large country (led by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade), to have some sort of gradual integration (South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki is reportedly championing this approach). Normally I point you to one or two news stories, but there are many stories with slightly different takes. The best ones I’ve read so far online are from the Turkish Press (and it seems to be a story from a Ghanaian newswire in Accra), and Reuters. Turkish Press writes:

African leaders were struggling Tuesday to agree on a road map for a closer union at the end of a summit that exposed deep rifts over how fast they should move towards integration.

The three-day African Union summit in Ghana has been almost entirely devoted to talks on how to bring the 53 states on the world’s poorest continent closer together.

The BBC heled to explain some of the tensions between the two approaches, quoting people from both sides.

Ghana’s Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo believes such problems were inevitable but can be overcome.

“You know the problems that you have in the European Union with 25 members, now 27, to arrive at common positions – we have 53,” he said.

“So clearly there’ll be problems involved for people to adjust and I believe that the 53 states will find a way of sharing and joining in the consensus as to the future direction of our continental organisation.”

Senegal, one of Africa’s most stable democracies, is backing Mr Gaddafi’s call for the immediate set up of a pan-African government.

“We are ready to abandon partially or totally our sovereignty to join a unity government in Africa. So we have no problem. My president is here with his pen ready to sign,” Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio said…

…The leaders of Kenya and Lesotho, representing southern Africa, also expressed their doubts.

“We recognise that Africa’s interests would be best served through economic and political integration,” AFP news agency quotes Lesotho’s Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisil as saying.

“However we must adopt a bottom-up approach, not a top-down one – We believe that such integration should be gradual rather than precipitous.”

Meanwhile the U.S. government’s “news” machine, Voice of America, reported that

“The wives of the heads of state tend to be united around one thing, that is diseases affecting Africans, and they decided to take up the issue of AIDS so as to make sure that mother to child transfer of the disease is prevented. And for this particular reason they also held their own summit. They call it the Fifth General Assembly of ladies of heads of state,” he said.

Abotchie said the chairperson of the wives of African heads of state summit, Zambian First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa commended U.S. First Lady Laura Bush for her financial contribution to the fight against mother to child transfer of HIV/AIDS.

Also, Afropop star from Senegal Youssou N’Dour has apparently been the first to say in an interview with that he’s interested in becoming the first president of the United States of Africa.

While I am excited by the possibilities a United States of Africa may hold, I hope that they do not move to quickly, and take their time to work from the ground up, figuring out where the people of the continent stand on the issue, and move with caution to do it right. I have concerns about a United States of Africa with the same amount of corruption, poverty, misogyny, homophobia, violence and bad governance.

That would serve none of us any good.

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