we should stop mimicking west

THE African Union conference last week ended with at least two significant outcomes, generating divergent feelings among observers.

One is the decision to afford Sudan President Omar al-Bashir freedom to traverse the continent without fear of arrest and being sent to the International Criminal Court. The other is the formation of the AU Authority, which will usher in a semblance of a common approach in defence, trade and foreign policies.

Not everyone is happy, however, because some Western countries do not find the idea of Africa's march to unity exciting. Secondly, these, especially the US which ironically is yet to become a signatory to the protocol that established the ICC, feel betrayed by the decision to let the Sudanese president off the hook.

One can live with that as we have become accustomed to Western double standards and neo-colonial outlook. What is disconcerting is the stance of some Africans in mimicking Western positions.

We even accuse Gaddafi of seeking to be president of a possible United States of Africa, the same accusation that was levelled against Kwame Nkrumah when he called for the adoption of that ideal in 1963.

Sheer ignorance is clearly responsible for the misunderstanding of Gaddafi's utterances. For instance, one still finds some commentators attributing to Gaddafi the dream of a United States of Africa. Long before Gaddafi was even thought of, the dream was conceived at the Pan African Conference in London in 1900, when Africanists such as WEB de Bois, Sylvester Williams, Henry Brown and Bishop Walters met.

Another Pan African conference organised by Julius Nyerere, Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and other Africanists followed. These conferences laid the foundation upon which Nkrumah and Haile Selassie rallied for the Organisation for African Unity.

That organisation has now become the AU, which Gaddafi is presently chairing. Gaddafi is merely echoing the dream of our forefathers.

In South Africa, in particular, this dream dominated Pixley KaSeme's mind when he wrote in 1906: "The African people, although not strictly a homogeneous race, possess a common fundamental sentiment which everywhere manifests, crystallising itself into one common controlling idea . and soon a new civilisation shall be added to the world."

The observant can envisage the energy waiting to be unleashed by a united Africa. We would collectively own the silent and as yet unexploited oil wells of Guinea, the Congo, the Tanzanian off-shore wells and elsewhere.

The Congo River carries the potential for providing electricity to every village on the continent.

Practically every country on the continent is endowed with mineral, agricultural or ocean resources that can, at a swipe of the broom, eliminate the rampant poverty created by lack of political will and imagination, egotism and division.

To argue that the process of uniting Africa must be slow is to pour scorn on Nkrumah's painful sentiments, who, after an impassioned speech at the inaugural conference of the OAU in 1963 and derided by his counterparts, was consoled by Joshua Nkomo of Zimbabwe.

Nkomo tried to empathise by saying his "unity" speech was 10 years ahead of the thinking of the other leaders. To this Nkrumah said: "You know, Josh, the real problem here is that my speech is 10 years too late."

Adding the 46 years since 1963, we can now join Nkrumah and say Gaddafi's utterances are 56 years too late or join Nyerere, who said: "The question we now have to answer is whether Africa shall maintain this internal separation as we defeat colonialism, or whether our earlier proud boast ... I am an African ... shall become reality."

l Muendane is the author of I am an African