For its first event of 2013, and just a few days ahead of the 20th African Union Summit (January 21-28), the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa organised today, jointly with four other organisations*, a seminar on Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.
This seminar was the occasion to reveal to the audience that informal corridor talks at the AU foresee either Uganda, or Ethiopia, or at least an eastern African country, as the next President of the AU. And this in the very symbolic year when the Organisation is to celebrate, in May 2013, its 50 year anniversary (The Organisation of African Unity was created in 1963 and replaced in 2002 by the African Union).
Central themes of the presentations, the concepts of Pan-Africanism, and to some extent African Renaissance, were introduced in past, present and future Africa, as tools to advocate for an integrated continent. Participants underlined that although Pan-Africanism was an old concept, born in the early 20th century from anti-colonial movements, it was still to be fostered these days so as to promote the idea of a harmonised continent where citizens could, for instance, be allowed free movement, where AU decisions would be enforced, policies harmonised across the 54 states, and support given to leaders struggling with potential violent destabilisation or full-fledged conflict.
This anniversary year could, yet again, also be the occasion to look for funding alternatives for the AU. Indeed, the organisation largely depends on international donors to operate, with the European Union as one of its major international donors, even though, as underlined by one of the presenters, he who brings the money, brings his influence along.
This seminar was also surprisingly the occasion to unanimously omit the death of Guinea Bissau leader Malan Bacai Sanhá in January 2012. I believe two presenters indeed paid tribute the African leaders who had died in office in 2012 and as one added Gaddafi (died in 2011) to the list, both omitted Sanhá.
What is left, then, of Pan-Africanism? Well, it was said during the seminar that the concept is something we know, we can discuss, but at practising it, we fail.
I indeed believe that we should not fear change, for it will most probably not come just yet.
*Open Society for East Africa (OSIEA), Oxfam International, Centre for Citizen’s Participation of the African Union (CCP-AU), and International Alert