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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
African Union: What are its prospects?
The newly created African Union's first summit has opened in Durban, South Africa.
The 53-member group replaces the 39 year old Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Unlike the OAU, the African Union will have the right to intervene in the affairs of member states, in cases of genocide and war crimes.
It also aims to replicate the success of the European Union in bringing together Africa's economies.
What effect will the African Union have on the future development of the continent? Will it do things better than the OAU?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I've always thought that in order to bring more growth and development in Africa, the stimulus for economic growth and development must originate internally. Breaking down those political barriers to internal trade and creating an institution that can serve as a true watchdog for human rights is certainly a step in the right direction. It is my most sincere hope, though, that the AU will have more bite than its predecessor the OAU.
Abdullah Hussein, Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia
If Africans start thinking what is best for the future generations and stop blaming the past, I am sure AU will be successful. I think OAU deserves some credit. It's always easy to blame somebody. Think positive. Let the past go. If Africans really understand what unity mean, they may find the solution before they create more problems.
I would like the dictators who were part of OAU to vacate office now that it does not exist any longer and let the new AU receive some credibility from rest of the world since their presence there could just mean to world leaders as old wine in new container
George Mutua, Kenya
The AU will only succeed if the continent's political leaders refrain from self gratification and try to truly uplift the people they are supposed to serve. The comment on democracy in Africa "one man, one vote, once..." should fall away as true democratic elections are held where the will of the people cannot be questioned. Old men who hang on to power as political leaders should be pensioned off at 65 like the rest of us!
Those who think that the AU can easily emulate the EU are grossly mistaken. Unfortunately many AU leaders cannot let multi-party democracies exist, and they also squander our resources and hide them in EU countries. The differences are sharp enough and too difficult to emulate.
The newly formed African Union will undoubtedly be more effective, more vigorous and more progressive than its predecessor the OAU. The plight of Africa has been prolonged and persisted by its self-appointed dictator leaders through the OAU, who did next to nothing in improving lives of the inhabitants of the continent.
Africa will survive by the grace of God.
Au revoir OAU, Vive AU!
Dropping "O" from the old, passive and fruitless organisation is unlikely to produce any change for ordinary citizens who long most for peace for their ordinary lives. The first indicator i.e. democracy is the only key to any success.
The AU is an unworkable monstrosity created to keep despots in power for longer than they merit. It is a union of presidents who will come to the rescue of their peers even when the electorate no longer wants them - the Gaddafis, Mugabes, Mois, Oma Bongos. Unless there is a clear charter to promote good governance, individual freedoms within member states which can be enforced, Africa can kiss progress and prosperity goodbye for keeps.
It is quite ignorant to say that the OAU is a 'dictators' club or a 'disaster'. With the exception of a few countries, most African leaders are democratically elected, and rule their country with free press that would have been unheard off decades ago. Gone are the days when parliament or the people would do whatever a president says, as seen in Zambia, then Malawi, where presidential third term bids were thwarted.
Tullu Oromo, Minneapolis, USA
The OAU accomplished its goal of decolonization in 30 short years. Given the forces that operated against it, the OAU must be congratulated. To be a success, the AU must elevate the status of the African woman and eradicate conflict, disease, poverty and illiteracy.
The inauguration of AU in Durban South Africa marks the beginning of a new Africa. With at least 40 years of experience of OAU the African people have something to compare and hold their leaders accountable if they do not deliver. We need to give time to AU and with South Africa at the Chair, I am confident that within the next 15 to 25 years every African should walk with their chests high. We all need to participate in the AU economic and governance revolution and stop pointing figures at our leaders.
Alex Naughton, UK
Its pathetic that many Africans are not optimistic over the AU. In my humble view Africa will never be the same after this. But to really change Africa there is an urgent need to remove all the colonial boundaries so that Africa to be one. For its through unity that Africa can negotiate with the outside world as an equal partner.
Paul Eyabi, Cameroon/USA
We all know that the OAU failed Africa, but I think we should give the new AU a chance to prove itself. Even though most of the leaders of the AU are reminants of the OAU, we as Africans need to give the AU a chance to clean house by intervening into any country that has a government that are currently abusing their powers and human rights. Also put a stop and not recognize any government that comes into power with force by overthrowing an elected government.
A cornerstone for success in this bold venture, is to have an absolutely free press that is assured absolute protection to do their work in every African country. This will support credibility and better universal support.
I believe that Au can only be sucessful if all the leaders can put a limit to the number of years they can lead ( maximum 10 years). This is the only way out of the mess the whole continent is in. This way corruption, brutality, dictatorship can be brought to a minimum. Surely, this will give way to development, respect for human rights and good governance.
Bruce Namakando, Tarrytown, New York, USA
If the political ideology of the African Union is well articulated and well implemented, then the AU ideology can help to heal the tribal, ethnic, religious and colonial divisions (francophone and anglophone) that have prevented Africa from achieving unity.
Give me a break! It's waste of time and money. People still suffer. No progress forward at all. It's a place where the unpatriotic, heartless, careless, selfish, dictators of Africa come to party and show off how much they stole from the people they are supposed to serve and protect.
Mbena Shukrani, Tanzania
The most important thing for AU members to do is to find a stable new home for the organisation. They have to select a country that has at best, peace stability, democracy, law and order, in its history. A country where the AU resides will be helpful in shaping a good organisation but if we keep the AU in Ethiopia where bravery, brutality, and mistreatment is custom don't expect changes. You don't rebuild a house in the same place where its destroyers are residing.
...OAU and the AU? The same picture with a different frame. The people of Africa are again left with a cadre of liars, thieves, and political hacks whose only interest is self, tribe, and money...
Yusuf Mohamed, USA
There they are, a bunch of tyrants, crooks, and buffoons - a truly pathetic bunch, whose determination to remain in power at any cost for its own sake, can only keep our indignant and helpless people in perpetual misery.
This plan for African Union sounds good and sound. However, we must realise that Africa cannot be compared with the Europium Union. While Europe has a common history, Africa does not. Many of the nations who will be members of the AU are in armed conflict with each other. This will probably be a typical African organisation that achieves nothing.
Jackson K. George Jr, Liberian/Minnesota USA
The OAU, in my humble opinion, was not able to achieve much at all. It provided a fantastic opportunity for African leaders to demonstrate their leadership, but soon enough disintegrated into the morass of politically motivated bigotry that has plagued Africa ever since it was re-programmed by Europe's colonials to serve European global interests.
How can the new AU do anything different? The OAU was made up of "dictator" states, and the new one consists of the new "dictators". Without political will and real power to intervene into any AU state, the organisation is useless. The only real leader is Africa with integrity is Nelson Mandela.
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