Sunday, July 1, 2007

Gaddafi Calls for a "U.S." of Africa

"For 40 years all the [African] summits have failed[...]Our micro-states have no future," proclaimed Muammar Gaddafi, the president/dictator of Libya, during his stop in Conakry last week. Gaddafi, longtime enemy of American presidents, recently embarked on an overland trip across sub-Saharan Africa drumming up support for the idea of a United States of Africa. Sleeping each night in a tent and holding rallies in the capitals during the day, Gaddafi is pushing the idea of a United Africa as an economic and military counterweight to the United States and European Union.

The Libyan president is a longtime proponent of forming disparate African countries into a cohesive political and economic force that would push back for fairer trade agreements with western countries and integrate globalization to Africa on African terms. He even calls for the creation of a two-million man African army that would protect any African nation threatened by external invasion. He cites as an analogy Luxembourg's participation in the EU, saying that under its protection "not even China can invade."

The idea of a United States of Africa is not a new one. In 1958, a newly independent Guinea under Sékou Touré briefly took part of the first incarnation of an African United States. It was the brainchild of Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana. Touré went so far as to declare Nkrumah "co-president" of Guinea, though there's no evidence this was any more than a mi casa, su casa rhetorical flourish on the part of Touré. The union extended to eventually include Modibo Keïta of Mali, until he was disposed of in a coup. When Nkrumah was summarily removed in a similar fashion a few years later, all talk of African unity came to an end with very little in the way of actual results.

As this entertainingly written journal kept by a BBC reporter who traveled with Gaddafi reveals, the issue of African Unity this go around is one of "hares" and "tortoises." Gaddafi (who considers himself a hare), wants a United States of Africa now; unfortunately, Gaddafi's arrival in Accra, Ghana, as part of a three-day African Unity summit illustrates he is outnumbered by so-called "tortoises" to integration, such as Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, who failed to even show up to the event, and Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who slept through a large portion of the summit's opening ceremonies.

While Gaddafi has been well received by crowds and officials at every stop so far during his cross-country tour, there is little evidence of actual accords taking place between African governments to put any of his proposals into action, even on a small scale. This opinion piece by Nkrumah's son, Gamal Nkrumah, suggests that while the dream of a United States of Africa lives on, African leaders have yet to confront and reconcile their staggering differences that would make such a dream a reality.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Is this the same Gaddafi who backed the nightmarish rebellions in Sierra Leone and Liberia that eventually destabilized much of West Africa? I don't know if anyone needs his vision of 'unity.'