HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMake Africa Day meaningful by democratising

Make Africa Day meaningful by democratising


Yesterday, the African continent commemorated Africa Day, a day with special significance for the decolonisation agenda, but which continues to lose meaning because of the stagnation the continent faces.

Comment: NewsDay Editor

At the launch of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) on May 25, 1963, there was hope that the crop of nationalists at that time could steer Africa towards growth and prosperity, but sadly this agenda was hijacked by a group of leaders that has taken the continent backwards.

The mantra “African solutions for African problems” has now been usurped by people, who use it to subjugate their people and frown on peer review mechanisms.

Most African leaders have adopted a see-no-evil and hear-no-evil approach when dealing with their peers, meaning citizens are at the mercy of rogue leaders and dictators.

African leaders have turned a blind eye to each other’s excesses and instead have only focused on consolidating power in their respective countries.

The African Union (AU) has no teeth and is similar to an old boys’ club, where leaders spend their day either patting each other’s backs or applauding hollow rhetoric.

Africa’s development somewhat stagnated, while a number of countries have turned their backs to the democratic principles that were espoused in 1963.

It is an indictment of this current crop of leaders that some heads of state have fiddled with their constitutions to extend their stay in power, while trampling on the very structures and institutions they should instead be capacitating.

Instead of having leaders that are open to scrutiny, some African leaders choose to govern in an opaque manner and use fear to subjugate citizens — that is why there is such a loud call to pull out of the International Criminal Court and why the Sadc Tribunal was collapsed.

Instead of Africa Day being a day of celebration, it is now a day of commiseration and wondering how the continent took a wrong turn after such a promising start.

A number of African countries are this year and in 2018 holding elections, and if the AU is to be treated seriously, there is need for it to come up with proper assessments of conditions, rather than where it seems to endorse incumbents and is totally blind to their excesses.

The AU needs to develop teeth and intervene to stop conflict in countries where there is risk of turmoil, for as it is the continental body is a paper tiger and not fit for purpose.

Africa Day will only be meaningful when all African citizens are free to express themselves, choose their leaders and hold them to account.

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