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COMMENT: Kagame at African Union

Hope is not lost from the man whose vision and experience helped rebuild Rwanda from the ashes

COMMENT | LADISLAS NGENDAHIMANA | Fifty four years after her creation, the African Union is still struggling for her internal organisation and functioning. And the global Pan-African Movement which envisions driving the dignity and unity amongst Africans remains a non-operational framework.

It is under such turmoil that President Paul Kagame takes the annual rotational leadership of the African Union for 2018.

Analysts are busy in predicting the future of the African Union. Looking through the publications and media reports, the organisation is far from reaching the prosperous and peaceful Africa, free from wars and armed conflicts by 2020.

The future of Africa shall depend mainly on its citizens. As of now, all African countries are independent. Every leader is a product of her/his society. Our leaders are African citizens.

I don’t wish to look alarmist, but it looks like some Africans –not to say “many”- don’t want a strong Africa and African Union.

A few days ago, a leader of a sister country reportedly said that; Africa is a “shithole” continent with “shithole” countries.

I have been waiting for a strong reaction from African leaders and citizens. What transpired was that only the African Union Commission and few governments expressed their dissatisfaction. Others kept quiet as if nothing happened. I think such people and leaders don’t wish to see themselves at the high table with dignity.

We should all agree that democracy and government institutions can only work if the citizens want them to deliver. Irresponsible citizens would only create non-sensitive leaders.

Though “corruption is not African”, as President Kagame once said, power struggles, corruption, and political opportunism are critical in paralysing the performance of the African Union.

This year, Africa shall be dominated by elections. From experience, ill-wishers are on standby to use their proxies to destabilise the concerned countries.

Elections are scheduled in all corners across the Continent. Mauritius and Cameroun shall hold their presidential elections.

Mali, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Madagascar and Democratic Republic of Congo shall hold their general elections, that is; presidential and legislative.

Chad, Djibouti, Guinea Bissau, Gabon, Togo, Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda, Swaziland and Mauritania shall hold their legislative elections.

Africans should all learn from the past and prepare better and peaceful, transparent and democratic elections.

If Africans really need a prosperous continent, they should work together towards regional and continental integration to foster trade and investments. It can only be achieved with leadership, governance and institutions that fit and work for Africa. Can we stand firmly, as Africans, and say that we are safe?

Looking at the current situation in many countries that are preparing for elections, I would respond in the negative. There are some leaders in comfort zones, who don’t care about the next generations.

And, to be honest, Africa’s dignity shall never be offered as bread on the table. We need to actively struggle for it, and it requires responsibility, determination, hard work, and risk taking.

The fact that Africa suffered from slavery is not enough to claim dignity as a gift.

President Kagame will have heavy tasks; including integration and migration, conflicts and wars, revitalisation of peace efforts in many countries, in addition to overseeing the African Union institutional reforms.

More tasks and requests shall keep flowing on him from Africa and beyond, as we can all foresee, considering the volatile situation in several countries.

Without a solid social contract with firm, stable and predictable finances from Africans themselves, the African Union –which should address Africa’s challenges – remains all but a dependent and financially handcuffed institution.

But all is not of chaos, despair, and crisis. Hope is not lost.

At least only twenty African countries have embarked on implementing the 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports to finance the African Union, though the majority’s resistance remains a counterproductive challenge.

Another key challenge is about free movement of people, because a visa is still required for many intra-African movements, and this remains critical to trade and investments. Africans should think big to open their borders to Africans.

The youth remain a critical success factor, but they need to be nurtured and inspired. The future is in their hands and the Pan-African Movement would serve the purpose but only with support from Heads of State.

Africans’ hope lies in our leaders’ hands. Kagame’s vision and experience helped rebuild Rwanda from the ashes of genocide against Tutsi in 1994. I pray other Africans can join his efforts in shaping a prosperous and dignified Continent. Africa should never be considered a “shithole”. Africans deserve better at the high table, and it is time for renaissance. Team work and unity of purpose are required. Hope is not lost.


The author is a Political Analyst and a member of the Pan-African Movement, Rwanda Chapter

Twitter @NLadislas

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