By PATRICK HUNTER
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which has since become known as the African Union (AU). In the western media we rarely hear any mention of what the AU does, what its philosophy is or its influence. Occasionally we will hear that it has provided peacekeeping forces in some troubled areas and little else except for its inadequacies. However, plans are underway to celebrate and mark the occasion of the 50th Anniversary, and underscoring those plans are ways of fulfilling the dream of a united – or United States of – Africa.
Whether Marcus Garvey was truly the father of the “Back to Africa” movement is one of those debates that really serve no purpose. The fact is, he was one of the most successful in preaching that gospel. To what extent he influenced the founding of the Organization of African Unity – now the African Union – is also a discussion that matters little.
What matters is that the germ of the idea he espoused and popularized now has some foundation, and the philosophy – the vision – that supports that foundation continues to be a source of inspiration. One of the organizations which were founded to actively join in organizing the celebration and with a particular agenda of moving the concept forward is the World African Diaspora Union (WADU).
WADU attributes its founding in response to a call to the African Diaspora – people of African descent living in all parts of the world – by the African Union to “help rebuild Africa”. Its “manifesto” states that it was “… created for the unification and solidifying the various associations, groups and individuals of the Black Diaspora and having accepted the Pan African African-centric philosophy as the means of establishing a new global order of justice and equality for all by African empowerment for the accomplishment of the African Renaissance”. It would achieve this through a number of initiatives, including acceptance of the African Diaspora as the sixth region by the African Union. In other words, that the Diaspora would play an active role in building a united Africa under one central continental government.
As noted, the effort to reunite the Diaspora with the Continent is not a new idea. Pan-Africanism embodies that concept. And the roadblocks to achieving that unifying idea have been many. A considerable part of that roadblock has been the slow acceptance by the Continent of the descendants of enslaved Africans as part of the family. Hence the idea of seeking the recognition of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region.
In this, it is probably safe to say, we are now much closer to that objective than we were before. The vision of a united Africa was moved forward considerably with the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the independence of Ghana. The Civil Rights struggle in the United States and the far-reaching acceptance of the philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, among many others, no doubt contributed to the decolonization struggles in Africa and the Caribbean, thus contributing to a clearer understanding of what connected the Diaspora with the Continent.
The 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa can be considered as one of those breakthrough events that would move this idea forward. WCAR provided a forum in which Africa and the Diaspora came to a greater understanding of their commonalities and potential for working together because African-descended delegates from all over the world met with and talked to each other more than they had ever done before. For the first time, for many, there was the realization that there were people of African descent living in significantly large colonies in South America, apart from Brazil and Guyana. Moreover, they faced many of the same, if not more drastic, conditions as those in North America and Europe.
Since then, through such organs and events as the UN’s Working Group on African Descendants, the International Year of People of African Descent, the commemoration of the bicentenary of the ending of the transatlantic trade in Africans as slaves and slavery, and the debate over reparations have all contributed to a better understanding between the Continent and its Diaspora. WADU hopes to take this to the next level.
The official launch of the year of celebration to mark the 50th anniversary begins May 25. The AU has themed its next Summit “2013, Year of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.” It is at this summit that WADU will formally present its resolution which reads, in part, “…that this May 25, 2013 – May 25, 2014 be established as Africa Year and for all African people and organizations globally to work together to promote key programs and projects in honor of our great African legacy, our successes for freedom and independence and to bond together for the continued work and struggle to further our Union and empowerment in the 21st century…” Planned programs for the year include a number of events and meetings to further inform and educate about the history and, more importantly, the need and advantage of moving towards a united Africa and Africans.