PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni on July 2 addressed the 9th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Accra, Ghana, which discussed a proposal by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to create a United States of Africa. The theme of the Summit was â€œGrand Debate on the Union Government.â€ Below is the sp
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni on July 2 addressed the 9th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Accra, Ghana, which discussed a proposal by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to create a United States of Africa. The theme of the Summit was â€œGrand Debate on the Union Government.â€ Below is the speech in full
AFRICA is both the cradle of Man (human kind) and the cradle of civilisation. Archaeology is continuing to confirm that for five million years or more all human beings were Africans and were living only in Africa. According to John Readerâ€™s book, The Biography of Africa, it is only since 100,000 years ago that groups of human beings started leaving Africa to populate other continents.
For instance, between pages 99 and 102 of this book, he writes: â€œSeveral strands of evidence â€” fossil, genetic and linguistic â€” point persuasively to the conclusion that every person alive today is descended from a population of anatomically modern humans that existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago.â€
Therefore, when you see Europeans, Asians, Arabs, and such groups, you should know that all those are former Africans. They lost their melanin on account of living in areas with little sunshine. Melanin is for filtering out the harmful sun rays. It is the melanin that gives us our black colour.
Secondly, Africa was the cradle of human civilisation. The Egyptian civilisation was an African civilisation. It started about 3500-3200 BC following the fusion of smaller states in both Upper Egypt, around Abgdos as well as on the Delta around Memphis (close to present-day Cairo).
This African civilisation thrived for about 2000 years until about 1025 BC that Egypt started being invaded by outsiders: Sea peoples from the Aegean Sea, the Libyans, the Persians, the Assyrians, the Greeks and, finally, in 30BC, the Romans.
Although the Egyptian civilisation declined because of the invasion and, of course, some internal weaknesses, its influence endured and was copied by others â€” the Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians, etc.
The Great Pyramids, built 5000 years ago, are the only Wonders of the ancient World still standing. This is not to talk of the literature, the art, the hieroglyphics, the State system, the mythology, the religion, the Calendar system, weights and measures as well as quite a lot of the Science.
However, the emigrants out of Africa multiplied more than the in-Africa population. According to John Readerâ€™s book, The African Biography on page 254, 100,000 years ago the African population was one million inhabitants. That is when a few hundred persons left for Asia and Europe. By AD 200, the African population was 20 million.
By 1500 AD, the African population was about 47 million. Yet, the out-of-Africa population had grown to 300 million. Why did the population in Africa grow slowly? It was because of the tropical diseases and the vectors that spread them: mosquitoes, tsetse flies, etc.
Even by 1900, the in-Africa population was 133 million while that out of Africa was 1,517 million. The slow growth of the population of Africa had a negative impact on the evolution of durable centralised states. The small kingdoms, chiefdoms or segmentary societies of Africa were all conquered by 1900 except for Ethiopia.
The colonisation was the culmination of the protracted attrition against Africa by the foreigners. It had started with the looting of resources, slave trade and, eventually, colonisation. We were colonised because we were organised in small tribal, clan or segmentary units.
The argument that we were colonised because of lagging behind in technology is not entirely correct. China and Japan were backward technologically when they confronted the European colonisers. Nevertheless, they managed to preserve their independence, their technological backwardness notwithstanding.
Therefore, in my opinion, their sub-optimal political organisation was the main source of the weakness that caused the ignominious, eventual subjugation of our people. The colonisation of Africa by foreigners was a vote of no confidence in the traditional, tribal, clan and segmentary systems.
Africans were, however, lucky. In spite of the slave trade, in spite of the colonisation, unlike the Red Indians, the Incas or the Aztecs, we survived extermination. In time, our elders (Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Namdi Azikiwe, and others) regrouped and launched the anti-colonial movement.
Along with the anti-colonial movements in Asia, supported by the socialist countries, the African peoples, eventually, triumphed â€“ we regained our sovereignty. The first independent African country was Ghana in 1957.
The imperialists had also rendered us a service with their intra-imperialists mega conflicts of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. The imperialist-on-imperialist conflicts (so-called World wars â€” meaning intra-imperialist wars) weakened them. This haemorrhage among the imperialist countries contributed to our victory.
What is amazing is that 50 years after Ghanaâ€™s independence and with the independence of all the African countries, the causes of the
African tragedy that engulfed our continent since the collapse of the Egyptian civilisation 3000 years ago and the eventual colonization of the whole continent by 1935, have not been addressed.
The major cause of the eventual collapse of all the African civilisation was political balkanization on too small a scale to guarantee the survival and the sovereignty of the African people.
Who is the guarantor of the freedom and survival of the Black race as well as other African Peoples? The Western system is underwritten by the United States of America. It is the USA and the USSR that saved Europe from fascism. The USA shielded Europe when they were in the contradiction with Communism. Who is our guarantor?
Can Uganda guarantee the survival and sovereignty of African countries? Can South Africa do it? Can these countries stimulate growth and transformation of our economies and societies? Huge China and India have had to work closely with the big Western economies to achieve the transformation they have. How can our individual countries achieve the transformation they need?
How can our individual countries achieve this socio-economic transformation? Fifty years since independence, none of the African countries achieved the transformation from the Third World to the First World like the Asian economies have done. This is regardless of whether these African countries have been peaceful or violent, multi-party or dictatorship, free market or controlled economy.
Only South Africa, currently, has a GDP of US $220b. This half a century stagnation is because almost all the African countries lack the strategic stimuli that normally cause sustained growth and transformation in economies and society.
Some of these strategic stimuli are: a big market that consumes what entrepreneursâ€™ produce as is the case in China and India; an attractive investment destination by the very fact of big population size; rationalised and integrated resources (natural and infrastructural unlike many of the African countries that are land-locked (Chad, Mali, Uganda, Rwanda, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Zambia in Africa) or do not have adequate access to the hinterland on top of divided rivers, lakes, mountain ranges, etc; we do not negotiate together when it comes to trade matters with outsiders; and, as already pointed out, the inability to guarantee our independence in decision-making because we are not strong enough by ourselves individually, we are not organised collectively to do so or we do not have one of our own as a guarantor for our freedom.
We were able to fight the White racists and the Portuguese colonialists with the support of the Russian and Chinese Communists. Did any serious African leader imagine that the antagonism between West and East was a permanent phenomenon? In fact certain hegemonistic interests in the world are, always working to achieve a condominium arrangement with other emerging powers.
In any case, why should a people like the Africans, so well historically, culturally and natural resources-wise, pin their hopes on outsiders? Why do the Africans get mesmerised by the strength of others but are always reluctant to build their own power?
Are present generations of African leaders going to repeat the mistakes of the post-independence leaders as well as those of the African chiefs whose myopia, greed and rivalry so enfeebled Africa that it was colonised by outsiders?
It was on account of the points raised above that the Pan-African leaders: Nkrumah, Nasser, Nyerere, Kenyatta started talking about African integration. By the time of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) in 1963, there were three positions among the African leaders:
-The ones who wanted to form an all African Government led by Nkrumah;
-The one who wanted to form regional federations like Nyerere, and
-The so-called conservatives that wanted to maintain the status quo i.e. maintain the present weaknesses of a politically, strategically balkanized continent.
By now the mistakes of the so-called Conservatives are clear. Africa today has been left behind by the Asian countries that are not as endowed as Africa in terms of natural resources. The small Asian Countries like South Korea, Singapore and others that have transitioned from the Third World to the First World were, for Cold War purposes, linked to the USA market. The degree of access to the USA market could not be compared to the merely symbolic Lome arrangements between Africa and EU.
The conservatives, therefore, by working for the maintenance of the status quo were, in effect, working for the present state of perpetual weakness. Some of the countries in Africa that were being held up as models by the West have since collapsed.
These include Uganda, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo DRC, etc. In the case of Uganda, we have reconstructed her on the basis of new revolutionary principles. We hope to deepen and accelerate our achievements through integration in the East African region as well as the rest of Africa. Now that the position of the conservatives has been discredited, we remain with the two Pan-African positions: Continental Government now or regional political federations where possible, in addition to continental economic integration as envisaged in the Abuja Treaty.
In Uganda, we are not in favour of forming a Continental Government now on account of a number of reasons. First, while economically I support integration with everybody, politically we should only integrate with people who are either similar or compatible with us. The whole of Africa has got some obvious incompatibilities when it comes to political integration. In East Africa we have, for long, talked about political federation. It is part of our treaty â€” Article 5(2). In fact, recently, we have been talking about fast-tracking that federating process in East Africa.
Why do we think that East Africa is similar or compatible? It is because all the people of East Africa are Bantu, Nilo-Hamitic, Hamitic, Nilotic or Sudanic. Their languages and dialects fall into two broad categories: the Nilo-Saharan group of languages and the Niger-Congo group of languages.
In fact East Africa and Congo is where these two groups met many thousands of years ago. Their languages are linked. Above all, since about 1200 years ago, the People of the East African coast distilled a non-tribal dialect out of the languages of the area â€” Swahili. This dialect is spoken, in different degrees, in the whole of East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi), in the whole of Eastern Congo, Northern Mozambique, some parts of Northern Zambia and Northern Malawi. This is a population of about 150 million people. East Africa alone has got about 120 million people. These can and should integrate, not only economically, but politically also. Other areas of Africa that feel that they have got a comparative degree of similarity or compatibility could also work for political integration.
Insisting on political integration at the continental level will bring together incompatible linkages that may create tension rather than cohesion. This will, especially, be so if you bring together groups which want to impose their identity on others. I cannot give up my identity for anything. Even the European slave traders and colonialists failed to destroy our heritage â€” languages and way of life. In my language we say â€œIja tuturane niyo ija twanganeâ€ â€” â€œwhen you invite somebody different to stay too closely with you, it tantamounts to invite him to hating each otherâ€. In Uganda, we have a three language policy:
-Local dialects in their respective areas;
-Swahili for regional communication; and
-English for international linkages.
Our wish is to continue enriching Swahili drawing from the hinterland dialects. In decades and centuries to come, the tribal dialects may merge with a much richer Swahili. I do not want this to happen in Africa.
Therefore, our recommendation is that we take a functions-based, rational approach. We ask ourselves the question: â€œWhat function can most rationally be done at what level â€” village, district within Uganda, national, regional or continental?â€ There are definitely functions that can best be done at the continental level. I can think of the following:
-Managing a Defence Pact, and later on
-Managing and promoting African Common Market. If the African Commission could concentrate on these four, instead of being everywhere and nowhere, we would start moving forward. We are wasting too much time pushing unresearched positions.
Some people have been disparaging OAU. Actually, OAU achieved a lot compared to the African Union. Precisely, because OAU was realistic and limited itself to what was feasible,i.e. co-ordinating support to the anti Colonial Liberation Movements in Southern Africa, Sao Tome and Guinea Bissau, we were able to liberate the whole of Africa in exactly 30 years (majority rule in South Africa in 1994).
This was a remarkable achievement. Of course, the Communist countries helped us in that. The regional powers we build wherever possible could replace, the Communist countries in underwriting the freedom and continued forward march of Africa.
I salute the enthusiasm of those who advocate for Continental Government now. I, however, do not want us to move from one mistake â€” balkanization â€” to another mistake of oversimplification of very complex situations.
The writer is the President of the Republic of Uganda
Museveni cautions on US of Africa