Federalism, the best option available for African States to gain positive Sovereignty

“A federated state involves a real surrender of sovereignty; it is an irreversible structure that has nothing in common with the transitory economic groupings that have proliferated since independence”[1]

 “It is quite obvious that integrated continental planning cannot find a substitute in the kind of tinkering that limits us to inter-territorial associations within custom unions, trade agreements, inter-communications services and the like”[2]

 The formulation of the theme that we are here to exchange on is: Federalism and the Sovereignty of the States.   I took the liberty to rephrase it in the form of a question that I will attempt to answer.  That question is:  What is the nature of the sovereignty that most African countries enjoy today and how could federalism help them improve it?  

 Let us first start by defining Sovereignty and Federalism, the two key concepts that are contained in the question. 

Sovereignty is a combination of the freedom and the capacity of a nation to select policies and implement them for the purpose of enhancing its security and general welfare.  It is clear to us as stated by the sub article number one under article 8of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution that “sovereignty resides in the nations, nationalities and peoples”.  In other words national sovereignty is the property of the people not of their elected officials.[3]  In fact the African Union Study group that produced African Union Government: towards the United States of Africa was in line with this view by stating that “The Union Government must be a Union of the African people and not merely a Union of states and governments.”[4]

 Sovereignty is therefore a status with a dual attribute: liberty and wherewithal. Because of its liberty characteristic, sovereignty can be positive or negative[5]. Negative sovereignty is protected by international laws.  It is the legally recognized prerogative of a state to freely manage its domestic affairs.  Contrary to positive sovereignty, it is a passive right.  Robert H Jackson in Quasi-States explains that “A positively sovereign government is one, which not only enjoys rights of nonintervention and other international immunities but also poses the wherewithal to provide political good for its citizens”[6].  

 The overwhelming majority of the African countries are negative sovereignties.  The efforts of those who want to unite the continent politically are geared towards creating for Africans a home that is a positive sovereignty; a geo-political and economic space where they will be out of harm's way, can live their lives as they please without fear and have access to plentiful opportunities for self betterment.

 Federalism is a pact in which the States, not the people, of the federated entities- are instructed by the people who are the real owners of national sovereignty- to surrender or accept to share with a central authority that enjoys a certain level of independence from them, portions of the national sovereignty which they are entrusted with the duty of managing.  The federal authority that is created is chosen by the people not their governments (States).  It is directly accountable to the people.  It can be directly petitioned by any individual or group of individuals who are seeking a legal redress on a wrong that was done to them.  It is important to differentiate federalism from intergovernmentalism. In the latter the States still retain control over the portions of their national sovereignty in which they have decided to coordinate their decision making.  The European Union is mostly an intergovernmental entity.   We say mostly because the European Central Bank functions as a federal institution[7].  The United States of America are weaved into a mostly federal entity.   The African Union is a purely intergovernmental entity.   

 During the debates for the ratification of the American Constitution the most tenuous anti-federalists like Patrick Henry of Virginia were opposed to the federalist compact because they feared that the Central Government will annihilate the states and jeopardize the control that the people have on their government.  The success of the American experiment and many others around the world modeled after it, have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the surrender of sovereignty by their state is not conterminous to the loss by the people of their capacity to control their government and preserve their identity.

The organizers of this Symposium have righteously pointed out that “establishing a Federal State presupposes that Member States would abandon a part of their sovereignty.  This is apparently the biggest obstacle to the actualization of the United States of Africa”.   The reluctance by many among the political leadership of the continent to marshal their nations towards taking this step has been indeed the major impediment to the birth of the Union of African states.  Because as David McKay puts it, using the William Ricker’s realist approach to the understanding of federalism, “federations are not simply willed; they are forged out of political and economic necessity.  Ultimately they are the products of interest rather than ideas”[8].

 In light of McKay statement it is hard to understand, from a purely logical stand point, the reason behind the resistance by some leaders against the establishment of the Union of African States.  The failed economies that once looked promising; the civil wars and preventable pandemics diseases that have claimed the lives of millions; the national debts that have become an unbearable burden for the majority of African countries despite their relative insignificance compared to the debt burden of many other nations,[9] and the threats posed today by globalization to many of the African cultures are facts that stand as undeniable proofs to the prognostications of Dr Nkrumah: “Only a strong political union can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people”[10].   

 Africa needs a federalist rearrangement of its political map to get out of the chaos that it has deeply entrenched itself in. This is today a “self evident truth” to the overwhelming majority of Africans and friends of Africa.  The million dollar question before us is: why aren’t the African states moving towards the federal union despite being faced with problems that are far more severe than those that forced the Europeans to enter into a federalist deal?

 The simplest answer that we have for this question is that the delay in the birth of the Union of African States is due to the fact that African Federalists have not yet been able to offer a package, with the right dosage of carrots and sticks, that can motivate those who are reluctant to reconsider their stance of the issue.  Throughout our presentation which is divided in six sections, we will suggest a way in which this package can be put together.

-               In the first section we will provide the rationale for why African states should surrender or accept to share some of the portions of their sovereignty with a federal authority.

-               The second part of this paper will examine the portions of the sovereignty that should be surrendered to the federal authority. Another way this has been framed is the exclusive powers of the federal authority.

-               The third section will discuss the concurrent powers of the Local, State, Federal authorities.

-               The fourth Section will examine the portions of the sovereignty that should be under the sole control of the State or Local authorities. This may also be referred to as the States and Local communities’ Rights.

-               The fifth section will deal with the method of arbitrating conflicts that may arise between federal, state and local authorities.

-               The sixth and last section will deal with the potential obstacles to the materialization of the federalist goal.

The Wisdom of the Federalist choice

The socio-economic benefits that African people stand to gain from the political unification of their continent are amply elucidated in the works of many advocates of the federalist option.  The most famous among those are Nkrumah, Diop, and Kodjo but there are scores of other unsung heroes and heroines of the African federalist cause that have done valuable work in this domain.  The cost of not embracing federalism has also been given valuable time for cogitation thanks to a gathering that was organized in June 2007 by Trust Africa in Marrakech, Morocco.  We do not intend to “beat on a dead horse” by engaging in the repetition of what our predecessors have already clearly outlined. Our focus here will be on:

-               Demonstrating that federalism is the best choice for African countries interested in fulfilling the promise of independence.

-               Proving that federalism is a much more favorable deal than the reliance on foreign powers which is the choice made by most of the African quasi-states to help them keep afloat.

-               Exposing the inadequacy of intergovernmentalism as a mean to achieve African unity. 

Federalism and the fulfillment of the promise of independence

Except for nihilists, the post independence African political leaders have in their record a long list of positive achievements.  From education to infrastructure building to health care the Africa that the colonialists had left behind have been radically transformed.  But despite the significant progress that has been made, the core promise of independence, which is the creation of an environment where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”[11] are inalienable rights that are not only enjoyed by “fairly narrow elites”[12] but by all the people, is still not fulfilled.  The quasi-states and negative sovereignties in Africa have displayed enough evidence of their inability to fulfill that promise.  We believe that this is what prompted Julius Nyerere to say while speaking at celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ghana’s independence “Africa must unite. This was the title of one of Kwame Nkrumah's books. That call is more urgent today than ever before. Together, we the peoples of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states. The needs of our separate countries can be, and are being ignored by the rich and powerful. The result is that Africa is marginalized.  Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward”.

 In the opinion on Yoweri Museveni “the balkanization of Africa into 53,mostly sub-optimal states, has meant that Africa cannot have a large internal market under one Political Authority”.[13] These very small and/or cash starved markets cannot sustain a viable industrialization.  Their domestic instability, due in significant part to constant competition between ethnic groups for the control of the state, is a serious impediment to research and creativity therefore to economic development.  These are all ample evidences of the need for most African countries to join a bigger entity that can help them become fit to fulfill the promise of independence. 

 It is true that African countries have been involved in many schemes on the regional, continental and global level.  These schemes were intended to improve their share in the world’s wealth and increase their chances of fulfilling the core promise of independence.  But the gains from these efforts can at best be qualified as very meager.  A wall, the harsh reality of the rules of the game on the international relations playing field, has time and again foiled these endeavors. Independence, as most of you will agree, continues to be a nightmare for many Africans and the low level of most African citizens’ patriotic commitment, because their countries has little more to offer than hopelessness and the constant fear of insecurity is a serious impediment to national cohesion and domestic stability.  This is not likely to change as long as political unity, the federalist option, will be delayed.

 Federalism as an alternative to reliance on foreign powers

 In the early years of the independence era, African people pinned a lot of their hopes on the new status that their nations had attained. Less than a decade later many of them started to realize that being independent is more than just having a flag, a national anthem, and government positions mostly occupied by people who can trace their ancestry to the country or have the seats of a national assembly mostly filled by indigenous people.  It is also a burden: the responsibility for the state to provide an environment where the core promise of self-determination can be fulfilled.  But because of the level of depravation left behind by the colonialists, their size and their composition, most of these states were unfit to stand on their own feet.  Many of them were forced or cajoled into surrendering back to their former colonizers significant portions of their sovereignty.  In all the key portions of their sovereignty that these African countries have surrendered back to their former colonizers their people have very little, if any say, on how they are managed. 

 Those who believe that only the willing peons of the imperialists can accept this form of agreement will be surprised to find out that Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara did not severe this type of relationship with France.  Burkina Faso remained in the CFA zone and still relied on France to buy its cotton, their main exportation crop.  The author of this contribution was an eye witness of the socio-economic impact on the country when France refused to buy the Burkinabe cotton in 1985-86.  Many negotiations took place to encourage the Mitterrand government to change its tune.  The five year development plan in which we participated in the discussions in 1986 relied for 75% on foreign contributions to be fully implemented.  Despite all this, there is no one who knew Sankara who would for a split second accuse him of being a peon to any foreign power.

 In a federalist setting the African States will be surrendering portions of their sovereignty to the Federal authority but the citizens of these countries will retain their full rights to participate in the selection process of those who will be put in charge of presiding over their destiny in these matters.

 The existence an option wiser than Federalism and capable of helping Africans finally free themselves from the yoke of colonialism and prosper politically and socio-economically is very unlikely. 

 The inadequacy of intergovernmentalism as a mean to achieve African unity

From 1963 until now intergovernmentalism has been used as a stepping stone in the unification process of Africa.  But both the defunct OAU and the African Union have made evident the serious limits of this form of approach.  Intergovernmentalism, with governments that do not have full authority on the portions of their sovereignty that they are planning to coordinate their decision making on, does not stand much of a chance of being successful.  The European Union has registered some success in the implementation of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and in Macro-economic Policies thanks to the capacity of its members to “declare, implement and enforce public policy both domestically and internationally”[14]. In his best seller “Africa Tomorrow”, Edem Kodjo, the former head of the OAU who has been deeply immersed in the implementation of the intergovernmentalist approach, recognizes the limitations of the intergovernmental approach. In his opinion “at the rate that African unity is advancing through this approach the likelihood of the crystallization of micro-states is gaining strength to the detriment of the unitary mystique”[15].

 We have every reason to believe that some African political leaders are using intergovernmentalism as a mean to delay the birth of the Union of African States.  Intergovernmentalism allows them to “talk the talk without having to walk the walk”.  It is therefore a veil that many African anti-federalists are using as a cover because they do not want to appear as opponents to an idea that is dear to the overwhelming majority of the African people.

  The progress made by the ECOWAS and the SADC has lured some people into believing that these intergovernmental entities can be easily transformed into federal bodies.  Anyone who has some familiarity with federalism and knows which factors have played a significant role in the success of the ECOWAS and SADC can see that the source of the strength of these organizations will be an obstacle to their transformation into viable federal arrangements. 

 The portions of sovereignty to be ceded to the Federal Authority

The present day African states do not have the makings of great economic powers.  They cannot endow themselves with independent defense systems. Consequently they have no means of evolving any independent foreign policy”[16]

We believe that the most urgent need to surrender power to the federal authority of the Union of African States is in the following sectors:

F      Macro-economic policy making (printing money, borrowing from foreign nations and institutions, setting rules and regulations on financial matters, setting up the rules for domestic and international commerce)

F      Defense and Security policy making (establishing and maintaining an army, power to declare war)

F      Diplomacy and foreign relations (Foreign policy making, signing treaties with foreign nations, running the diplomacy)

 External Borrowing

For most African countries their debt is perceived as an affliction.  But this curse can be transformed into a blessing for the African people in general and African federalists in particular.  The offer by the federal authority to assume both the foreign and domestic debts of the countries that become members of the Union can be used as a means to convince many of the reluctant states to join.  This can also be a means by which the federal government can gain enough legal leverage to watch how the states manage their resources. 

 Another reason why External Borrowing powers should be surrendered to the Federal Authority is that many of the loans that African countries are carrying today have been for various reasons contracted under very unfavorable terms.  By Assuming these national debts the federal authority which will be in a much better footing to demand for the renegotiation of theses debts stands a much better chance to have significant portions of these debts “pardoned” without any strings attached.


The number of AfricanRepublics that have a currency that is worth anything outside of their borders is very limited.  Most of these countries “do not have a real monetary policy because either they do not have control over their currency or they lack the necessary leverage on financial issues to have one”[17].  In light of this reality, the surrender of this portion of their sovereignty to the Union of African States will only be a matter of shifting allegiance.  Keeping things the way they are now, meaning pretending to hold onto a power that they do not have, makes no sense.  This surrender will give to their citizens a voice in these macro-economic policy makings.

 The Protection of the Vital Resources

The capacity of the state to protect the vital resources of the nation is crucial for economic development.  The performance of African countries in this field is very poor.  Capital flight, work force flight and depletion of their natural resources are happening at an alarming rate, making the chances for an economic take off thinner and thinner.  Balkanization can be accounted for as one of the main reason why Africa is unable to protect itself from these infectious diseases that have already brought most of their economies to their knees.

 The Protection of the Terms of Trade

“Africa’s share in world exports fell from about 6 per cent in 1980 to 2 per cent in 2002, and its share of world imports from about 4.6 per cent in 1980 to 2.1 per cent in 2002. This phenomenon has as much to do with the structure of international trade as with the composition of Africa’s merchandise trade, the trade policies applied on the continent in the past 20 years, market access and agricultural policies in industrial countries”[18].  In other words the deterioration of the terms of and the reduction of Africa’s share in world export and import is in part due to the incapacity of the African countries to counteract the negative effects of the trade policies of the developed countries.  If this is the case, and we believe that it is, the present African countries do not stand much of a chance to stop this free fall of their share in the world wealth. 

 Defense and Security

Most African armies are, for various reasons, a danger to the people that they were meant to protect and defend.  The best way we can describe them is that they are a “trompe l’œil”(an eye tease) when it come to providing security and maintaining peace. By the number of the military coup d’états that have taken place on the continent, we can deduce that they are nests of insecurity to the political development of the continent.  Last but not least a significant part of the African debt is due to the purchase of military equipments that are almost obsolete and consume a significant portion of the meager budget of their country.   They are ill equipped to fight a war. 

 The presence of these foreign military bases on the continent has proven to be an impediment to political development.  They increase the chances for the next global war to be fought on African soil just as was the Cold War. Things will most likely remain the same unless these countries become members of a federation that can afford a real army and is capable of reclaiming this portion of their sovereignty. 

 Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy

No country can function properly without having a vigorous army of diplomats spread over all the corners of the earth. It is today safe to say that having such a diplomatic corps is out of reach for most of the African quasi-republics.  In many cases the responsibility to keep a watch on their interests in the places where they cannot afford to post a diplomat falls into the laps of the former colonizer.  This is another surrender of a portion of national sovereignty.  Even in the places where they can station a diplomat the weakness of their economies makes it almost impossible for them to use these diplomats as effective head hunters for deals that can bring rains of prosperity. This is unfortunate!  These very well trained and highly skilled diplomats that were meant to be catalyzing factors for economic growth have become a burden to their national budgets because their countries cannot afford to use them properly.   “Africa’s limited command of supportive tools like information technology and military muscle to back up their positions if need be is not helpful either. Africa has no resources to put where its mouth is. This limits her diplomacy’s reach and influence across the world”[19].  

 Concurrent powers of States, Federal and local authorities

Apart from being able to directly levy taxes on individuals and businesses, the need for concurrent powers to be held by the federal and state governments stems mostly from two main reasons:

-          The States, if we use their track record as a guide, have either performed poorly or could see their performance in the management of these areas of sovereignty boosted by a federal involvement.  

-          The second reason is linked to the need for the protection of the cultural identity of the State while giving them access to federal resources capable of improving their capacity to properly manage these areas of their sovereignty.

The federal authority of the Union of African States should have a slight upper hand in the definition of the rules and regulations of education, social security, health care, individual and group rights, food and agriculture, environment, energy and communications. The federal authority should also have the right to monitor the treatment of the local communities by the member states.  The high level of suspicion between the majorities and minorities[20] in many African countries warrants the need for an independent body that can be trusted by the various groups that make up the African nations.

Social Issues (Education, Health Care and Social Security)

Peace and security cannot be confined to the narrow definition of being the opposite of war.  To be in a peaceful and secure environment must also mean being able to sleep at night free from the harassment of mosquitoes and bed bugs.  Being able to bade in a lake or river without running the risk of become blind. It is being able to take a walk in a forest trail without having to worry about the encounters with the tsé tsé fly.  It also must mean having the alternative to get help from the State that you pay taxes to when a severe drought or inundation or wild fire has ravaged your crops or destroyed your home. Not being able to afford a protection against these natural elements of the environment is more troublesome to most individuals in Africa than the threats of ethnic conflicts or any other type of violent confrontations between States. These natural threats to the safety of the person and are hindrances to the creativity and the productivity of the individual and therefore jeopardize the capacity of a nation to reach self-sufficiency.

 Protection of the Rights of the Individuals and the Groups

The absence of an authority that has the means and/or the will to protect the rights of all minorities and groups with a deficit of power is a serious hindrance to political development in most African countries.  The tendency of the State or local authorities to take the side of the majority in the arbitration of the conflicts between individuals and or groups is also another reality.   Today in Sudan, the non Arab populations of the south is being mercilessly killed, raped, and taken as slaves with the complicity of the Arab-dominated government of that country.  Occurrences like this one are frequent on the continent and warrant for the need to give the future federal authority the right to protect the victims of these gross injustices.   What has happened in Rwanda, Burundi and many other places in Africa where States have either ignored the rights of the minorities or let the majority violate them should be unthinkable in the Union of African States.  A federal Bill of Rights will provide the Federal Government with the legal venue to stop local political leaders from restricting the basic rights of those they govern.

 Policy making on Energy

Africa, as demonstrated by Cheikh Anta Diop in “Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a FederatedState”, is laden with energy sources.  Harvesting this energy and making it available for domestic and/or industrial consumption has been a true challenge for most African countries.  The Amount of investment required to have access to these energy sources (solar, hydraulic or fossil fuel) is forbidding for most African States.  This is the reason why Exxon Mobile, Elf Aquitaine, Shell and many other oil giants are called to the rescue. 

Policy making on Environmental issues

To say that a significant number of African countries are faced with environmental threats that they are incapable of protecting themselves against because of the lack of resources is an understatement.  African countries are today witnessing, helplessly, calamities on the making that they know will become serious threats to many generations of Africans to come.  A few of them, if any, have the resources, financial or manpower, to significantly slow down, let alone revert the course of these clear and present dangers to the livelihood of millions of their citizens.

Policy making on Communication

While the rest of the world is engaged in this crucial race of the 21st century, Africa is nowhere to be found and runs the great risk of paying a hefty price for relying on others to carry her on their back to the finish line.  In fact we are already paying the price. A survey of the cost of phone and internet communications between African countries or Africa and Europe and the USA shows that the cost of communication is very high when compared to the same activity within Europe, between Europe and the USA or between the USA and Israel.  To be fair to some African political leaders we must say that the absence of Africa is not due to a lack of wanting of the political leadership to be in this race.

Policy making on Food and Agriculture

Millions of Africans children and adults go to bed hungry because their countries cannot afford good sounding agricultural policies.  Africa holds the third largest reserve of Fresh Water in the World; 5,724.96Km³ and the largest track of arable land of the world 1,991, 418.68 Km². Despite being endowed with these natural resources, Africa is the continent when hunger represents a constant threat to an increasing number of people.  “Actually with Africa’s several sovereign entities, most of them mini-states, national self-sufficiency in food is not a feasible option for many”[21]. This is mainly due to the lack of resources.

The rights of the Local Communities

The relationship between the State and local communities in a federal arrangement is tainted by the process of the establishment of the federalist system. When the process is centripetal (USA) the Dillon rule[22] is the one that tends to be applied.  In the case of a centrifugal process (Nigeria, Ethiopia) the Home Rule[23] tends to be the one that is adopted.  In the point of view of the framer of the Nigerian 1999 constitution for example “State control over local governments is desirable only to the extent that it enhances local autonomy and initiative. Should it shackle the exercise of local self rule it will also undermine effectiveness of democratic decentralization”[24].  It is worth noting that the application of the Dillon Rule is the more popular one.  This does make sense because in most of these federal arrangements the establishment of the State, the Province or the entity that they have been carved from is antecedent to the one of the local community.  In Africa this it is the opposite.  The States were created by the colonialist out of the pieces that were chipped from different communities.  In fact it may be wise for the framers of the constitution of the Union to make provisions that will allow the establishment of trans-borders cultural-regional communities (districts). To our knowledge there is no precedent for this in any other federal arrangement, but we believe that it will be a great contribution to the cultural renaissance of many African nationalities.

 The proprietorship of the land

Many of the violent “ethnic” conflicts that have erupted in Africa can be traced to the history of a poor management of the ownership of the land. One is to expect that as a Union of African States makes the land more and more valuable, conflicts around its ownership will increase. Giving the federal authority a legal mean to step in and help quail these crises is of utmost importance. .  The events that lead to the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa with his 8 companions of the Ogoni Nine and the numerous revolts of the people of the Delta region in Nigeria are a testimony to this popular frustration with how the ownership of the land is managed by the Nigerian Governments.  The need to protect the federal rights of these communities and help them get their fair share in the exploitation of these resources is obvious.    

Powers to be exclusively held by the States

The 10th Amendment on US constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”.  Article 73 of the Russian Federation’s Constitution and the Sub Article 1 of Article 52 of the Ethiopian Constitutions are very similar to this amendment.  It is only Canada that has listed specific powers (16) reserved to the provinces.  This is in our opinion a good matrix for the definition of the powers that will be exclusively reserved to the member states of the Union of African States.  The combination of this 10th amendment of the US constitution and the various uses that were made of the “necessary and proper clause” can help the future framers of the constitution of the union to strike the right chord on the member States’ exclusive powers.

 Resolving the Potential Conflicts between Local, State and Federal

The American Civil war of 1861-65 mainly happened because the framers of the US constitution did not at their gathering of 1787 in Philadelphia clearly define a mechanism of arbitration between States and Federal authorities.  In fact, the conflict that led to the war could be traced as early as 1798 to the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions asserting the States’ rights by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.  James Garfield the 19th president of the United States wrote at the close of the war “the Kentucky resolutions contained the germ of nullification and secession and we are reaping today the fruits”[25].  The clarity of the federal constitution will be the best shield against future conflicts that can jeopardize the Union. 

The obstacles ahead

The difficulties that were encountered in the past by Nkrumah and those that are being encountered today by Qaddafi show that trying to unite Africa politically is a challenging undertaking. The obstacles are many and there is every reason to believe that unless they are overcome, the efforts of the federalists will continue to be frustrated.  The most obvious of those impediments are:

-               The political leaders’ resistance to what they perceive as being a dispossession of the main tool in leveraging power that they have at their disposal. What can they be offered in exchange?

-               The Jacobin “power sharing” mindset, exhibited by many within the African ruling class, will not be very receptive to a federalist arrangement where all three levels of power, Federal, State and Local, must learn to respect each other’s authority. How can we ease the minds of these leaders and help them overcome the fear of losing their power and/or aura?

-               Nation building still remains one of the prime occupations of the political leadership of the continent.  Helping consolidate the main building blocks of the federal entity is a necessary task that the future federal government will have to tackle.  How do we consolidate these nations while weaving them into one federal entity?

-               The strong grip that most ruling parties have on their people will not facilitate the free participation of the African masses, the real owners of the national sovereignty, in the negotiations for the federalist deal. How do we intend to get around this formidable obstacle?

-               The diversity in the political systems of the future building blocks of the union is another challenge to the effort to unite the continent politically.  The monarchies (Morocco and Lesotho) and the federal entities (Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan) stand to pose challenges in the negotiations for the allocation of the different portions of the sovereignty to the federal, states and local authorities.


     Our primary goal in this paper was to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that for African people to regain their full sovereignty that has been lost since the colonial occupation of their continent; they must enter into a federalist pact.  They have nothing to loose but being marginalized in world affairs because their continent is shredded into 53 negative sovereignties.  

 We can continue to blame imperialism and neo-colonialism for the misfortunes of our continent and the major impediments to the efforts of our countries to fulfill the promise of independence. 

 We can continue to be marching in the streets of Paris, London, Washington and Brussels with the false hope of changing the hearts and minds of the developed countries’ political leadership.  A generation later things will most likely remain the same if they do not worsen. 

 We should always be reminded of what Charles De Gaulle; the father of modern France, once said “France has no friends but interests to protect”. The field where the international relations game is played is not much different from the famous “American wild west”.  Only those who are fit and well equipped can make their voices heard. For the quasi-states of Africa, it is federalism, not intergovernmentalism, which stands the best chance of making Africa fit and well equipped to meet the challenges of globalization.

 In “Dead Aid” Dambisa Moyo tried her best to prove that China is the new true friend of Africa.  Instead what she succeeded in doing is to prove beyond any objective reasonable doubt that our continent is being repartitioned before our own eyes because of the quasi-state nature of our countries.  In an article publish in the Jeune Afrique of Wednesday July 22 by Dominique Geslin «à la fin de l’année 2008, rapporte Jean-Yves Carfantan dans Le Choc alimentaire mondial (Albin Michel), cinq pays se distinguaient par leurs acquisitions de terres arables à l’étranger: la Chine, la Corée du Sud, les Émirats arabes unis, le Japon et l’Arabie saoudite. « Ensemble, ils disposent aujourd’hui de plus de 7,6 millions d’hectares à cultiver hors territoire national, soit l’équivalent de 5,6 fois la surface agricole de la Belgique. » We are faced with a present and clear danger and must act now!  To quote Dr Kwassi Aidoo of Trust Africa I will say “We must put African unity and African integration on a fast track. Literally, we must stop everything we are doing and integrate our continent. We have no choice. The forces that disintegrate Africa have been at work for a very long time, and they are getting stronger by the day”[26].

 Nevertheless, as much as we may be eager to act, we are keenly aware of the fact that there is not an amount of valid arguments in favor of federalism that can provoke a stampede of the political leadership of the continent toward the creation of the Union of African States. 

  We can continue to blame these leaders for being insensitive to the plight of their people.  We can accuse them of being reactionaries or anti-people or peons of the imperialists.  This will only further complicate matters and delay the birth of the Union of African States. We need to stop overlooking the fact that many of them went through a lot of risks and sacrifices to reach the social station where they are sitting.  Some of them believe that they owe it to their people to stay put where they are while others see this station as an ultimate prize.  Whatever may be the reason why they want to cling to power, the gains that uniting Africa will represent for their nations a whole or for themselves on a long run is in the short term a personal loss.  They will never voice openly the need for them to be compensated for this loss.  But as long as an offer of compensation that is worth it will not be put on the negotiation table, they will always find thousands of reasons to drag their feet.  In Wolof they say “leketu neen manuta nax bëy” (one cannot catch a goat with an empty bowl).  The ingenuity of the African federalists will manifest itself in a strategy that can make it possible to circumvent the blocking power of these very powerful anti-federalists.  The American federalists who were able to not only make obsolete the articles of their confederacy, they looked a lot like the charter of the African Union, but also marshal the drafting of a federalist constitution and campaigned successfully for its ratification have left behind plenty of lessons that we can learn from.  But this is another debate that African federalists, academics and activists, will hopefully be having in the near future.

 I will close by making a proposal.  On top of making sure that the product of the work that has been done during this symposium is well disseminated, the follow up committee should put together an Action Plan towards the Union of African State.  I could go more into the details on this idea during our discussions.

 Diomaye (Ndongo) Faye

[1] Cheikh Anta Diop, Black Africa: the Economic and Cultural basis for a federated State” Forwards to the English edition

[2] Kwame Nkrumah, African Must Unite, International publisher New York, page 171.

[3] See the exchange between  Ellsworth, Mason and Madison in the notes of the 1787 Constitutional Convention that were taking by Madison In Ralph Ketcham’s The Anti-federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention debate; Published by Signet Classic, Pages 127-129

[4] http://www.africa-union.org/Doc/study_on_AUGovernment_june2006.pdf

[5] Isaiah Berlin, Four essays on liberty

[6] Robert H Jackson, Quasi-States: sovereignty and international relations, page 29; Cambridge University Press 1996

[7] Article One of the October 2004 Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe states “This Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise on a Community basis the competences they confer on it.

 [8] David McKay, Federalism and European Union: A political economy perspective, OxfordUniversity press1999, Preface.

[9] The continent’s debt ratio over per capita GDP,31.18%, is  only higher than the Chinese 22% and Russian 8%; CIA Worldfacts book, 2007

[10] Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology, London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1961, pp. xi-xiv

[11] The American Declaration of Independence

[12] R. Jackson, Quasi-States Negative sovereignty,

[13] President Yoweri Museveni; address to the G8 leaders at the SeaIsland(Georgia) Summit June 8-10, 2004

[14] Robert R Jackson, Quasi States, page 29.

[15] Edem Kodjo, Africa Tomorrow, the Continuum Publishing Company 1987, page 225

[16] Ibid; Page 221

[17] Ibid; page 137

[18] UNCTAD 2003, Economic development in Africa: Trade Performance and Commodity Dependence, page 1

 [19] H.E. Mwanyengele Ngali High Commissioner of Kenya to the UK, Speech at the conference organized by the Africa Center in London on the Future of African Diplomacy, March 1999.

[20] See the paper of Leo Dare “Federalist de-concentration and group rights in Canada: Some lessons for Nigeria”. Published in Federalism in Africa Volume One,; Edited by Aaron Gana & Samuel Egwu, Africa World Press 2003.

[21] Study on an African Union Government: Towards the United States of Africa, Page 7

[22] Based on a Ruling of the Ohio Chief Justice Dillon who ruled in favor of States being the Owners of the local communities

[23] This rule is the opposite of the Dillon Rule. For the home rule proponents, self-determination Local community’s right.

[24] Alexander Gboyega; Local autonomy in federal politics; In federalism in Africa Volume one; edited by Aaron Gana & Samuel Egwu. Africa World Press Inc. 2003; Page 78

[25] Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, Penguin Press 2004, page 574

[26] Kwassi Aidoo, Executive Director Trust Africa,  Speech during the celebration of Africa Day May 25th  2007 in Ghana