WEB POSTED 09-21-1999
leaders: 'Let us unite'
OAU summit ends in agreement
to speed pace toward One Africa
Libya—In the face of mounting competition from global economic blocs
and the threat of neo-colonialism, African leaders meeting here for the
4th Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
determined that Africa would become the world’s largest economic and
political bloc, and perhaps the leader of the next millennium.
A record 43 heads of state answered the call of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi for the urgent Sept. 8-9 sessions to discuss the pace at which Africa is moving in the face of such global challenges. Col. Gadhafi, following the example set by the great revolutionary and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, and others, specifically called for the establishment of a United States of Africa, with its own central bank, military and parliament.
The extraordinary meeting culminated a 10-day celebration of the September 1st Revolution (The Great Al-Fatah Revolution). The colors of each African nation’s flag decorated cities throughout Libya, African dance troupes performed nightly on the central square in Tripoli and revolutionary slogans and photographs of African presidents draped walls and billboards.
A massive parade Sept. 7 in Tripoli witnessed by nearly two dozen heads of state, Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat, Algerian revolutionary Ahmed Ben Bella, a Nation of Islam delegation led by Chief of Staff Leonard F. Muhammad, and others marked the official observation of the Revolution. The parade was delayed until Sept. 7 for the presidents’ arrival.
Announced near midnight on their target date of 9-9-99, OAU Secretary General Salim Ahmed Salim told more than 100 journalists that the leaders had agreed to quicken the pace of unity.
"As we prepare to enter the 21st century and cognizant of the challenges ... we emphasize the imperative need and high sense of urgency to rekindle the aspirations of our peoples for stronger unity, solidarity and cohesion in a larger community of peoples transcending cultural, ideological, ethnic and national differences.
"It is our conviction that our Continental Organization needs to be revitalized in order to be able to play a more active role and continue to be relevant to the needs of our peoples and responsive to the demands of the prevailing circumstances," he said.
The OAU determined it would:
Mr. Salim said the OAU would establish the Pan-African Parliament by the year 2000 in order to provide a common platform for African peoples and grass roots organizations to be more involved in discussions and decision making on problems and challenges facing Africa.
A return to Sirte
The Council of Ministers should submit its report on implementation at the next meeting of the OAU scheduled for Lome, Togo, next year, he said, adding that December 2000 is the target date for ratification of the agreements. Then the OAU would return to Sirte in the year 2001 to adopt the document, he said.
"This is a very, very serious milestone. Africa for a long time has been underestimated because we have not been united," Liberian President Charles Taylor told The Final Call shortly after the meeting as the heads of state hurried to their cars after long hours of debate and discussions. "The time for unity is now, the unity will be organized. We are moving toward a parliamentary situation, and then the problems of Africa ... can come into focus because we have decided that we are going to unite as a union."
Ghana’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohamed Ibn Chambass called the deliberations "very profound and very radical. We needed to be taking these steps (toward consolidating Africa) decades ago. We are happy that Africa has now realized we need to take our destiny into our own hands and catch up with the rest of the world."
Throughout the summit meetings, Col. Gadhafi worked with a determination to reemphasize the need for unity. He dressed in his traditional Arab garments for the official meetings and dinners, but journalists and delegates alike were well aware of his focus on aligning himself closer to his African neighbors, particularly following their decision at an OAU summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to defy the UN ban against flights into Libya. That move in 1998, observers feel, was a major dent in the wall of U.S.-led sanctions on Libya, whom the U.S. holds responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Col. Gadhafi had accused Arab leaders of the Middle East of not standing with him in the face of sanctions.
"We’ve been waiting for this day with a particular eagerness," Col. Gadhafi said to foreign ministers Sept. 7, at a preliminary meeting in Tripoli prior to the official opening the summit. He said any union Africa determines must be comprehensive—economics, politics and culture.
Mr. Gadhafi invoked the name of Mr. Nkrumah as the catalyst for the meeting. He also said that everything needed for a new charter already exists in the Abuja Treaty.
The institutions were there, he said, but they were bodies without souls. "We want something considerable ... a new soul to bring life to these institutions and bodies," he said.
The way forward
While Africa is still a continent in crisis, all agreed that the mandate of the original OAU Charter—fighting colonialism—has been achieved. The focus now is to bring internal stability to member states—some of whom are involved in civil wars and rebel attacks against their governments—so that the countries can gain control of their mineral and human resources to strengthen their economies. The way forward must be deliberate, yet careful, most observed.
In debating his point at the inception of the OAU Charter, Mr. Nkrumah argued that an African "continental union government" would have a two-house legislature: an upper house of two members from each state and a lower house based on the population of each state, with power to formulate a common foreign policy, common continental planning for economic and industrial development, a common currency, monetary zone and a central bank of issue and a common defense system with one military High Command, according to "Inside the OAU: Pan-Africanism in Practice" (1986) by C.O.C. Amate.
"Since the conception of the OAU in ’63 we have been advocating unity and solidarity," said OAU spokesman Ibrahim Daggash. "We used it in the liberation struggle and we succeeded. Why don’t we use it in our economic struggle as well?
"We have to refuse marginalization. In the new millennium there’s no place for small entities. It should be viable political and economic groupings," he said.
"If we succeed in an intergrational process (in other areas), we’d succeed also in a common monetary unit. But we still have a long way to go," said Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan, referring to what has happened with the European Union.
Among the special guests at the summit were Gamel Nkrumah, son of the late Kwame Nkrumah, and Roland Lumumba, son of the late Congo freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba. At the close of the Summit, after giving Revolution Awards to the heads of state present, Col. Gadhafi, in a symbolic uniting of the past, present and future, awarded both sons the Revolution Award. With a horde of photographers chasing them, Col. Gadhafi walked out of the hall hand-in-hand with Nkrumah and Lumumba.
"My father would have been proud of Gadhafi today," the young Nkrumah told The Final Call in an interview. "I wish he could be around to see that somebody else has taken up his dream very seriously. It would have been a great day for him."
1999 FCN Publishing