Counting Western Sahara (a.k.a the Sahrawi Arab Republic), the African Union currently has 55 member countries. The African Union has, as its primary mission, the uniting of 54 of those countries (Morocco is not yet a member of the AU) into one large entity, to be called the Union of African States, the Federation of African States, or a similar name. The overall AU plan to achieve that is now called Agenda 2063.
In 2003-2005, the African Diaspora, as the Sixth Region of Africa, was officially invited, come on home, we want you back. The AU Constitutive Act, as amended in 2003, declared that the “AU shall, invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union.” And to be sure, the Diaspora being invited back to the house by the AU was defined by the AU as, people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.
All well and good. However, more than 12 years later, the Diaspora has still not been allowed to accept that invitation and build its participatory contribution to the AU’s mission. The Statues of ECOSOCC (the Economic, Social and Cultural Commission), established to guide the creation of and the operations of this permanent civil society commission inside the African Union, including the membership from the Diaspora, called for 20 elected civil society members from the Diaspora in addition to 130 continental African members.
Since 2006, although Article 3(q) was never ratified, the AU has continued to trumpet its commitment to the Diaspora, famously including the expensive, widely-promoted Global African Diaspora Summit in South Africa in 2012. From Nov. 19-22, in Washington, D.C., a second Global Diaspora Conference will be held in that same vein. In effect, the AU has operated as if the Diaspora relationship is a fait accompli. Yet, to date there are and have been no elected Diaspora members to the AU—the invitation has not yet been accepted.
Why? Number one, the AU designated the Diaspora participation to begin in the AU’s ECOSOCC Commission. The Statues of ECOSOCC, is a guide prepared and approved by the AU to instruct those interested in how to achieve that participation.
In Article 3(3) of those Statues, it is stated that, “ECOSOCC shall also include social and professional groups in the African Diaspora organizations in accordance with the definition (of the Diaspora) approved by the Executive Council.”
In Article 5 (3), it is further stated that, “African Diaspora organizations shall establish an appropriate process for determining modalities for elections and elect 20 CSOs (civil society organizations) to the ECOSOCC General Assembly.” Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO), the agency assigned by the AU to manage Diaspora relations, has, for more than 12 years, ignored that ECOSOCC instruction. Diaspora organizations which have offered such modalities have been routinely ignored or rebuffed, and all requests for a Technical Workshop sponsored by ECOSOCC or CIDO to arrive at an AU-approved method of electing Diaspora CSOs to ECOSOCC have gone unheeded.
Number Two, the prevailing strategy of appointing individual members of the Diaspora known to CIDO administrators (like teachers’ pets) to represent the Diaspora in ECOSOCC (as done in 2008 and again in 2014-15) has been highly ineffective and has yielded nothing of value in the effort to bring the Diaspora into the AU. Here is the truism: No one or two individuals nor one Diaspora organization is capable of representing the Africa Diaspora as a whole inside the AU. There are simply too many variable experiences and interests involved.
Number Three, there is a prevailing, mistaken view among the few thousand Diasporans already interested in this process that the Diasporans the AU invited are essentially the “modern” or “contemporary” Diasporans—those recent migrants from African countries to North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, etc., rather than the “historical” Diaspora—those descendants of victims of the Transatlantic and Arab slave trades. That rumor has been allowed to fester and grow within many Diasporan communities, and there have already been too many Internet comments, meetings, and conferences which have promoted this falsehood, with little attention being paid to correct it. Thus, a toxic rivalry now exists between various groups within the few thousand Diasporans already committed to the AU-Diaspora process over this misunderstanding; and it has negatively affected the further development of that AU-Diaspora relationship.
Number Four, the vast majority of the African Diaspora do not feel that they have any meaningful stake (no “skin in the game”) in building the AU-Diaspora relationship. What can or will such a relationship do to stop police shootings of unarmed African Americans, or daily racial discrimination in Canada, or continued government seizure of homes and property in Central America, or the annual celebrations of Swarte Peete in the Netherlands (Santa and his nasty Black assistant)? Of course, a well-laid out and marketed information campaign can correct that situation, but none is currently operating towards that goal.
In Part Two of this column, i’ll discuss strategies to move beyond this impasse.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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