Advancement of the AU should be a top priority

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. We must fortify our priorities and place the African Union above all other alliances.

Photo credit: File

Plato’s allegory of the cave is intriguing. It provokes one to question the idea of accepting things as you see them. Who truly defines your reality for you?

And how content are you with that description? The Commonwealth was formed at a time when Britain was grappling with how to handle the independence of former colonies. From 1953, the newly crowned Queen was an integral part of this process, with most African countries gaining independence in that decade.

Were it not for her young age, femininity and soft-spoken nature, this handover might have quite possibly been a very messy, dreadful and perhaps even violent affair. Anger was rife from all corners. From Kenya, which was coming out of the gruesome emergency years, to India’s uproar over the lack of accountability over the Amritsar massacre and the British-supported Boer concentration camps in South Africa.

One thing we can agree on is that, despite the devastation left behind by the colonial administration, the Queen by her numerous visits and tours to honour the new heads of state and governments, facilitated a peaceful transition of power that avoided further bloodshed between former colonies and the British. The Queen’s exit has now left the door open for the revision of the Commonwealth, having completed her work in that respect.

The Commonwealth Charter gives a general overview of best practice rules to guide international relations to prosperity, democracy and peace. It however offers little else. Africa does not get preferential trade agreements, no tax cuts or even basic reciprocal agreements on immigration policies. 

Territorial integrity 

We should instead invest in the advancement of the African Union (AU). The Constitutive Act of the African Union sets out the shared vision of African nations. We must take great pride in these objectives. For instance, Article 3(b) prescribes defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the AU member states, which is still a poignant topic. Article 3(i) provides for the establishment of the necessary conditions for the African continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and international negotiations.

This is not only a necessity, but it is urgent. These are not objectives we share with Commonwealth nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Further, being under the Commonwealth has not helped Africa’s push to have two permanent seats on the UN Security Council. The AU Act has provided a remedy for this though.

One of the most powerful principles provided is the establishment of a common defence policy for the African Continent at Article 4(d). The policy, which was adopted in 2004, however, needs strengthening. The conflict in Sudan and in D.R. Congo could greatly benefit from a robust defence and security policy. 

We must fortify our priorities and place the African Union above all other alliances.

So, just like Plato’s cave, let’s face head-on all shadowy misrepresentations of what our reality should look like and walk into our most powerful century as a united Africa and never look back.

Ms Njirwa is an advocate of the High Court. @PatriciaNjirwa; [email protected]