“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Of 9th, 11th, and 21st September, or Unleashing the AU-frican Lion to the World
By E.K.Bensah Jr
I am not surprised much of the Ghanaian media missed it; I could not have expected anything less. It was always going to be obvious that they would remember the much-publicised 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US and be totally oblivious to developments on the continent. If we had a media more sensitized to what was going on in Africa and its regional economic communities, we might have had more column inches on one major anniversary and a conference that ended on that all-important anniversary.
9th September is “Sirte Declaration Day”…
The all-important anniversary is that of 9th September. This day is ineluctably etched in African integration history as a day when the Sirte Declaration was mooted in Libya. The significance of this declaration has to do with the fact that it is the resolution adopted by the-then Organisation of African Unity on 9 September 1999, at the fourth Extraordinary Session of the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government held at Sirte, Libya. Policy-makers and aficionados of African unity remember Sirte to be blazing the trail on where Africa needs to go. If we can remember the importance of the Abuja Treaty of 1991 setting the blueprint for continental integration, then we can accept Sirte to be the engine for that integration. With it, three major things happened.
First, it set the tone for the establishment of the African Union as we know it today; second, it speeded up the implementation of the provisions of the Abuja Treaty, to create an African Economic Community, and its attendant Pan-African institutions of the Nigeria-based African Central Bank; Cameroon-based African Monetary Fund; the African Court of Justice; ( Libya-based African Investment Bank ) and Pan-African Parliament, with the Parliament to be established by 2000. Third, it prepared a Constitutive Act of the African Union that would be ratified by 31 December 2000 and become effective the following year in 2001.
…and the “real” African Union day
Also unbeknownst to the Ghanaian media was the highly-important fifth edition of the Conference of African Ministers of Integration (COMAI V). Held in Kenya from 5-9 September, the objective of the meeting was three-fold: to consider the report of the “Status of Integration in Africa 2011”; and a report on the “implementation of Recommendations from COMAI IV”; and review a study on “the quantification of scenarios of rationalization of RECs”.
Simply put, the rationalization of RECs refers to AU member states deciding to stick to one regional economic community – instead of the two or three some of them belong to. Policy-makers at the UNECA and AU Commission see this as pivotal to achieving the African Economic Community by 2034. Of equal importance, also, is the Continental Integration Fund for supporting the UNECA-sponsored “Minimum Integration Programme” that will help RECs deliver on harmonization of programmes consistent with the Abuja Treaty. On that, the African Development Bank is ready to support ways of resourcing this facility that will complement existing alternative financing mechanisms identified by the AU for unity.
Truth be told, if there is anything we can say about 9 September, it is that it is the veritable “African union” day. That the unfortunate events of 9/11 took place two days after one of the most important and significant events of African integration is perhaps a harbinger/metaphor of how African integration was doomed to run on the back of the so-called War on Terror.
Terrorism, 9/11, and 21 September
Not that this does not matter, but in Africa, the almost over-kill of September 11 is only as poignant as African countries choose to make it. Few can forget that East Africa experienced a spate of terrorist attacks during the “War on Terror” decade. It is also regrettable that the decade would “close” with attacks in West Africa with the bombing of the UN building in Abuja allegedly by Boko Haram. But can we honestly say that a 30-member “Global Counterterrorism Forum”—comprising the AU member countries of Nigeria; South Africa; Egypt; Algeria; and Mauritania – would be the solution to countering violent extremism in the problem of the Sahel; Horn of Africa; and South East Asia. To have Algeria in that group is encouraging as that country has given vent to what observers of the AU in some quarters call the “maghrebization of peace and security” of the AU.
I take issue not so much with the fact that this is an initiative of the Obama administration, but that the UN, regional and sub-regional bodies “would be invited to participate in the appropriate working group and their activities”. As to why they are not a permanent feature remains unclear. In the long run, this forum will be inaugurated on 21 September on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York.
I have no illusions that most of what I write here will be read by a minority of Ghanaians at best, minority of Africans at worst, and inculcated in a way that will help them make viscerally-life-changing decisions about what they can do to help the AU and ECOWAS deliver for citizens.
What I do know is that someone somewhere will take note and seek to educate themselves about the AU and ECOWAS –despite the absolutely egregious manner in which these two organizations project themselves to African citizens.
What I also know is that until Ghanaians begin to lose themselves to the rhythm of the African integration march, they will consign their progeny to an inexcusable fate they could have avoided. African integration will not work without a concerted effort by all—citizens and especially media alike—holding the policy-makers of these groupings accountable.
Much of the time, citizens are keen to work for them because of the good money that is offered, forgetting that the benefits and good salary are the bonus of hard work in helping make a contribution towards the betterment of generations unborn.
As I write this in the aftermath of another successful GJA Media Awards, I cannot help but also bow my head down in shame on how despite the centrality of Ghana in African integration—thanks to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah—Ghanaian media practitioners seem to be waiting for some external actor to sponsor an AU reporting award before they start writing about the AU or ECOWAS! Where is civil society on this issue? Where, indeed, are the media practitioners who need to be asking why such an award is not part of the categories?
Ghana is much more than the politicking of the NPP and NDC, and I daresay we do not have to wait for the CPP to emerge as a fully-fledged third force before we start talking, and taking seriously what the AU and ECOWAS do. The triple responsibility that Ghanaians bear of being citizens of Ghana, ECOWAS community citizens and AUfrican citizens ought to awaken them to the imperative and necessity of capitalizing on both the months of May and September to give vent to the AUfrican personality the continent so desperately needs.
ekbensah AT critiquing-regionalism.org
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org / Mobile: 0268.687.653.