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AU @50: Should we celebrate?

By Harold E. Acemah

Africans are no longer at peace and their leaders are restless

May 25, marked the 50th anniversary of African unity. Unlike May 1963 when the OAU was established, African leaders who assembled in Addis Ababa for the recent AU summit, such as YahyaJammeh of Gambia, Teodoro Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, are predominantly despots, tribalists and oppressors of the wananchi.

Two of them, Gen. Omar Bashir of the Sudan and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya have been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. The AU summit even had the audacity to accuse the ICC of racism and targeting African leaders for trial when the Prosecutor of the Court, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, is a distinguished lawyer from the Gambia! It is a very dishonest act by desperate and shameless men.


President Uhuru Kenyatta who has consistently claimed that he is innocent of crimes against humanity must be left to carry his cross without fear or bitterness. Why is he all of a sudden scared of facing justice which he denied others? Today, decent and respected African leaders are an endangered species and the quality of leadership in Africa is at its lowest since the 1960s.

Unlike pan- Africanists and intellectuals like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Leopold Senghor and Milton Obote who were pioneers in the struggle for African unity, the new breed who gathered in Addis Ababa have specialised in plundering Africa’s resources for personal gain in collusion with so- called “foreign investors” whom they treat better their own African citizens.

It is a tragedy which would make Nkrumah and the OAU’s first Secretary General, the illustrious DialloTelli, faint in shock.

These shameless robbers of the wananchi have rendered Africa’s heroic and gallant struggle for independence and unity meaningless. They have betrayed the African revolution and become willing agents of neo- colonialism which Dr. Nkrumah warned Africans about in 1963.

Most African leaders are stumbling blocks to the African people’s struggle for unity. A divided Africa serves their mercenary interests best. Against this tragedy, there is absolutely nothing to celebrate on the 50th anniversary of the OAU – AU.

One of the primary goals of the OAU was to liberate Africa from colonialism and ensure that peace and security prevail in the continent because these are essential preconditions for economic and social development. Has the goal of a pax Africana been realised?

The term pax Africana is derived from paxRomana which means Roman peace; a term used to describe the 200- year period from 27 BC when Caesar Augustus became emperor of the Roman Empire. PaxRomana was ushered and maintained by force and the Romans preserved peace by constantly preparing for war, like some contemporary African warlords.

Let nobody deceive us that they have ushered peace in Uganda or Africa because peace is not simply the absence of war. Real peace means, inter alia, freedom from oppression, freedom from fear, freedom from arbitrary arrests and detention, freedom from hunger, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Which country in Africa has achieved real peace? None and by the above standards, Uganda has not yet achieved genuine peace.

The few rich and powerful Ugandans are not enjoying “the peace ushered by the NRM” in 1986! They live in constant fear. If there was peace, they would not need thousands of heavily armed body guards; there would be no need to build high walls with barbed wires around their luxurious houses in Kololo, Nakasero and elsewhere; there would be no need to for the myriad of private security organizstions like Saracen, Securicor and Protectorate to guard them all the time; there would be no need for a huge army, which squanders at least 30% of our national budget, to protect and defend a corrupt and increasingly unpopular regime against the people; an army which Uganda can ill afford.

In many respects the vast majority of Africans are now hostages in their own countries!

Like the apostle Paul, who wrote many of his letters while languishing in Roman jails, as God’s beloved children, Africans are free people even if temporarily held hostage by tyrants. The truth will, however, never be in chains and it must be proclaimed everywhere without fear or favour!

Most Africans are today afraid of their leaders who treat citizens as enemies of the state! Africans are no longer at peace, especially African leaders who, for a variety of self- inflicted reasons, are restless. Some are constantly on the move, threatening wananchi and talking endlessly about nothing useful, as if keeping quiet is a sign of weakness when silence is golden.

As Paul warned, these types will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. A man who is not at peace with himself cannot be a peacemaker or a leader of a peaceful country. When you read or hear the foreign media propagate the big lie, “Africa is rising”, I bet they are either joking or trying to take wananchi for a ride. If truth be told; Africa is sinking.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding dwell in our hearts and minds and empower us to realise Nkrumah’s dream of “one continent, one people and one nation”.

Harold E. Acemah is a retired diplomat

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