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Former Zimbabwean leader rejects AU, makes case for ‘United States of Africa’

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‘Continent’s best interests will be best served by collapsing national barriers’

By Tasie Theodore

A robotics professor and former deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe, Professor Arthur Mutambara, has rejected the notion of an “ever closer African Union” and is rather insisting that the continent goes the entire distance to have a single continental entity, the “United States of Africa.”

Mutambara spoke recently in the United Kingdom while addressing members of the Oxford Union Debate Society at the University of Oxford.

Hear him:

“I stand before you in unequivocal and vicious opposition to the proposition that says: ‘This House would embrace an ever closer African Union’.

“For a start, we need the United States of Africa – a country – and not a union of sovereign states. We need to abolish national sovereignty and embrace continental sovereignty.

“We must pull our individual national sovereignties into one indivisible and all-inclusive Pan-African sovereignty. In order to leverage Africa’s 1.2 billion people, massive natural resource base and potential $2.3 trillion GDP we need to operate as one country and not a union of sovereign states.”

“We need one government, one head of state and government, one legislature and one Judiciary system. China, India and the US are doing just fine with one national leader (President or PM).”

“We surely do not need 55 Heads of State in Africa. As a minimum, we should have a federation of all the African states with devolved authority but driven by one strong and overarching central government where all sovereignty is reposed, as is the case with the United States of America.”

“You cannot expect the 55 African leaders to commit political suicide and legislate themselves out of existence. Each one of them wants to be a President or Prime Minister even it means presiding over starving and disempowered people.”

“President Cyril Ramaphosa is not prepared to be a State Governor or Minister of Agriculture of the United States of Africa. President Paul Kagame is not prepared to be a State Governor or a Minister of Home Affairs for the continent. Neither does President Yoweri Museveni want to be reduced to a State Governor or Minister of Transport.”

“They all want to be presidents of sovereign nations at the expense of the socio-political and economic advancement of ordinary Africans. An ever closer African Union will continue to accommodate these perverted and delusional ambitions of our African leaders.

“Under an ever closer AU, African leaders and governments pay lip service to continental economic integration and African unity.

“They have national budgets, visions, strategies, policies, elections, mandates, manifestos and implementation plans. AU programmes such as Agenda 2063 are neither referred to nor reflected in these national ambitions, plans and programmes. The central organising framework is the individual African state and not the African continent.

“This is despicable. It is unacceptable.”

“Gradualism, a brick-by-brick approach, and slowly developing regional blocs towards continental integration have not produced the United States of Africa. The doctrine of an ever closer union of African states has failed for the past 56 years.”

“Yes, the United States of Africa looks overly ambitious, if not impossible. It is precisely for this reason that we should aspire towards it. As South African President Nelson Mandela taught us: ‘It always looks impossible until it is done’. To paraphrase US President John F. Kennedy: ‘We must pursue this agenda because it is hard and not because it is easy’.”

“We must unshackle ourselves from paralysis by analysis. No guts, no glory. As Africans, we reject an ever closer AU and embrace the United States of Africa. Such a framework will enable us to advance our socio-political and economic aspirations across the continent dramatically”.

It will be recalled that a similar debate had broken out between Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere in 1963 at the formation of the OAU. The sticky point then as at now had been whether to move quickly and unify the continent into the United States of Africa or consolidate African states first and gradually integrate the continent through regional blocs. Nkrumah was a proponent of the ‘unity now’ viewpoint while Nyerere advocated a gradualist approach.

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