Fourty-six years-ago, one of the greatest optimists of all times JFK, speaking on World Peace at American University, said: â€œLet us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many of us think it is unreal. But that is dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion â€” that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.â€
He said: â€œ... Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.
No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Manâ€™s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable â€” and we believe they can do it again.â€
With the same optimism, I wish to give Col. Gadaffiâ€™s grand dream of a united states of Africa the merit it deserves but there will be real challenges both within and beyond Africa.
First, Gadaffi has been in power for 40 years, this means vast diplomatic and political experience to deal with other world leaders.
Second, economic power and prudence, Libya has the largest per capita GDP in Africa ($15,000 per person), seats on significant world energy reserves and its national wealth has benefited Libyan people and the continent in many ways. This power will be key, if Gadaffi wishes, in boosting the financially starved and ineffective AU organs whose annual budget is $160m, Gadaffiâ€™s pocket change.
Third, his sense of action, philosophy and readiness to bring the protagonists together to act using his financial chest. The continentâ€™s unification process has dragged on for generations with little work done, only summit communiquÃ©s. For instance, it will not be until 2028 that Africa will become a single market at the current pace. Change from business, as usual, in Addis Ababa is needed and his decisiveness will come in handy.
He will face significant challenges especially those associated with his reputation, track record, erratic and despotic style of leadership.
First, widespread fear of a continental monarch, his recent posture, utterances and self-declaration as â€œking of kingsâ€ have only fuelled this fear. He believes revolutionaries should not retire from power and can handover power to their next of kin formulating a ruling family dynasty on the continent. For Gadaffi to attain a meaningful progress toward a sensible united states of Africa, it will require his change in style and perception.
Second, there is suspicion among the powers within and outside Africa that Gadaffi, at the helm of AU, would push to spread Islam on the continent. As a precursor to this suspicion, he is reported to have said that the â€œBible is a forgery,â€ outraging hundreds of millions of Christians.
Probably well-intentioned, but his consistent support and erection of mosques across the continent, together with his posture on a typical religious conflict between Arabs and black Africans in Darfur may not win him many Christian friends on this project.
The west resents Islamic extremism and if he attempted to spread Islam, this could turn the continent into a battle ground for religious conflicts from within and outside Africa. This could alienate Africans amongst themselves and deter their growth and development. Third, proponents of step-by-step approach towards continent unity believe focus should be on building new institutions, strengthening current AU organs for effectiveness, wining the confidence of the African people (the masses) as the key â€œbuilding blocks of a gradual economic and consequent political union.
This holds more promise than a summit communiquÃ© of an instantaneous supranational government in Addis Ababa or Tripoli. Additionally, he maybe prescribed his â€œown medicineâ€ on this project, that is how many revolutionaries on the continent are willing to cede power and sovereignty of their states to him?
States like Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Africa who consider themselves to have gains on the democratisation are likely to disdain with contempt his scheme as trying to entrench despotism at continental level.
They would perceive his scheme as several steps backwards on progress of a democratisation on the continent.
Also political, economic and cultural realities on the continent â€” this is the most diverse region in the world, via culture, religion, ethnicity, language, political systems and wide gaps within levels of economic development.
The first route to bring cohesion amidst this diversity is to bring on board the voices of the ordinary Africans. Ordinary masses will be vital in attaining collective choice and responsibility as the key ingredients of any sustainable political or unification effort if it has to outlast itself and Gadaffi. So, where are the voices of ordinary Africans?
Finally, marginalisation of the African continent in the 21st century internationally is a real challenge for every African leader. It transcends every ego and personal ambition. It will need new good ideas and commitment by everyone on the continent. There is no single formula to overcome this challenge.
It is a challenge that needs dynamic approaches.
As a matter of priority Gadaffi should instead use his financial chest to focus on more practical and attainable goals. Things like strengthening the AU organs, help it resolve its financial problems, make it an effective instrument of peace and development.
Create new and comprehensive sustainable building blocks, that will guarantee a smooth, coherent, democratic, accountable and viable integration and consequent unification of the continent.
This would guarantee him a historical place and lasting legacy on the continent than his theatrics.
The writer is an International Trade Economist based in Geneva, Switzerland /b>
Can we achieve united Africa under Gadaffi?