CONCEPT OF THE FIRST AFRICAN FEDERALIST CONGRESS
This note is about the organization of the First African Federalist Congress. The main goal of this gathering is to launch a popular mass movement aimed at creating the condition for the birth of the United African States (UAS) in less than a generation. After an analysis of the present political context, the document will define the mission, the objectives and the expected outcomes of the Congress. The document will also outline the orientation of the discussions during the Congress, the profiles of the participants as well as the role they are expected to play in preparation for the Congress. This version of the document is a draft which is expected to be enhanced by the contributions of all of those who are involve in the organization of the Congress.
The interval between the 16th and 19th centuries can be characterized as a period during which decisions made by other nations to enhance their well being caused the loss of liberty and/or full sovereignty for most of the peoples of the African continent. In fact the impact of the Berlin Conference 1884-1885, a meeting of foreign ministers of fourteen European powers and the United States to establish the ground rules for the future exploitation of the "dark continent", is still being felt today by Africans.
The birth of the Pan African Movement in the 20th century was a reaction born out of the rise in consciousness of the similarity of their conditions and the inseparability of their destinies among Black people throughout the world. The wave of political independences in the second half of the 20th century allowed most of the African and Caribbean countries-with a population mostly made up of people of African descent-to partially recover the control of their destiny. However, more than fifty years after gaining legal sovereignty, Africans living in these countries still have difficulty enjoying the fruits that they legitimately expected as a result of their struggle for independence.
The euphoria from newly gained independence led many Africans leaders of the period into believing that their country could make it on their own. Despite the warnings of Kwame Nkrumah, clearly stated in his two books; “Africa Must Unite” and; “I Speak of Freedom” as well as in Cheikh Anta Diop’s book; “The Economic and Cultural Foundation of an African Federal State”, the Federalist option was not yet perceived by many African leaders as the most realistic mean to complete the liberation of the Africans from foreign yoke. Blinded by their new status they could not see that Federalism, the management of some of the portions of their sovereignty by a Federal governing body, is in fact the sine qua none condition for the total liberation of Africans from foreign domination.
Today, more than half a century later, the failed economies of those countries that once looked promising, the civil wars and pandemic diseases that have claimed the lives of millions of Africans, the national debts that have become an unbearable burden for the majority of African countries, the recurrent avoidable famines and today’s threat of globalization on many of the African subcultures stand as undeniable proofs to the righteousness of Nkrumah’s warning when he stated in 1961 that; “Only a solid political union can help us take full advantage of our natural resources in the interest of our people”.
It is becoming evident to the majority of African people and to the friends of Africa that the only way to get Africans out the cycle of disaster described above is the acceptance of Federalism as the means for governing the African continent.
But what are the obstacles that have foiled the plans of the African Federalists for so many years and how can they be overcome? Why is the political unification of Africa, which is the hope of the overwhelming majority of the African people and in which more than a billion people would draw substantial benefits, so difficult to achieve? Those are the two main questions that many Africans on the continent and throughout the African Diaspora are asking themselves as they lose faith in the capacity of African political leadership to transform the continent into one strong and viable political, economic and military entity.
A closer look into the Federalist strategies to date reveals that the political leadership’s reluctance has not been the only cause for the failure to unite Africa politically. A study of the approaches used thus far shows that they either had a lot of inconsistencies or were incomplete. The Garveyist approach-race as the main criteria for unification-, the Duboist-Nkrumahist approach – ideology and class as the cements of the union-, the Diopist approach-cultural similarities as the foundation of the federal republic-, and the Top-Bottom approach- believing that the political leadership of the continent can lead the way to African unity-, have their merits but they have shown us today all their limitations through their lack of results on the ground. For those reasons, they were unable to create the environment that is conducive to the birth of a United African States (UAS). We, the African federalists of today, must dare to revisit these approaches, identify their weaknesses and find other credible alternatives if we want to significantly improve our chances to witness the birth of the UAS.
A federal Union is a political, economic and military alliance between nations. The smallest common multiplier in such an alliance is the search for more opportunities, security and liberty for the individuals and the groups. As a basis for differentiation and diversification, race, social class and culture are the biggest common dividers during the formative phase of such a union. This is the reason why, promoters of a Federal Union, which has the ambition to cover a zone as vast as the African continent and beyond, should refrain from using these characteristics as the basis for their agreement, if they want to enhance their chances for success. Yes the peoples of Africa, like all the other peoples around the world, want more opportunities, prosperity, security and liberty! However they are not ready to surrender their identities for these benefits. This is perfectly legitimate. The confusion between Pan Africanism and African Federalism has caused many to believe that Unity meant Uniformity. No plan to unite the African people shall tamper with the continent’s cultural diversity.
2) MISSION OF THE CONGRESS
The outcome of the Accra 2007 African Union Summit has made it clearer, even to the less perceptive monitors of the effort being deployed to Unite Africa that Sirte 1999 did not bring about the changes that many Pan African activists were hoping for. Like the Addis Ababa 1963 compromise, which gave birth to the OAU, what appeared to be a middle ground agreement on July 12, 2000, in Lomé, Togo, was indeed a second victory for the African Anti-federalists. The African Union, like the deceased OAU is an inter-governmental organization, not the embryo of a Federalist Union.
The incapacity of the African Union to help its members cope with the numerous crises they have been faced with since its birth is another proof of the inability of the African political leadership to create a political, economic and military environment where the African people can enjoy the basic promises of independence; “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. More than half a century after their political independence, the dream to witness the birth of the UnitedAfricanStates and the creation on the continent of a strong FederalState with positive sovereignty is starting to look more like utopia than a realistic dream that can deliver Africa out of its quagmire. There is however no doubt that there are plenty of objective reasons for the federalist project to succeed.
In 1961, when Dr Nkrumah had prophetically said to his peers that, the only way we can make it is by forming a strong political union, many Africans had difficulties grasping the righteousness of his statement. Today, more than fifty years after the first wave of independence traversed the Continent, the magnitude and multiplication of the crises make it more and more evident, for the overwhelming majority of Africans and friends of Africa, that Federalism is the best option to bring the continent out of its present chaos. Today, Nkrumah’s call for the political unification of Africa stands a better chance to be heeded if a pertinent approach for the creation of the United African States is discovered and implemented. Therefore today, more than ever before, a generation of Africans has a real chance to unite Africa politically and leave to its descendants an inheritance that will be a source of pride and immense opportunities. For this very reason the initiators of the Call for the First African Federalist Congress are convinced that their initiative is timely. They believe so because it is the right time to take advantage of the lessons learned from the past approaches, experiences and initiatives and unite Africa politically.
To this day Pan African gatherings have not been able to create the conditions for the clarification of the ideological differences between the African federalists and anti-federalists within the Pan African movement. This was understandable during the time when the struggles for national independence, civil rights and against apartheid were the focal point of the African people. The mistake that federalists like Nkrumah made during the post independence era was to want to ignore the fact that even though all African federalists are militants or sympathizers of Pan Africanism, all Pan Africanists are not African Federalists.
` This is why one of the crucial missions of the Congress is to provide a clear delineation of the difference between Pan Africanism and African Federalism. Another important mission of the First African Federalist Congress is the creation of an environment conducive to the birth of a vast federalist movement capable of mobilizing the overwhelming majority of the African peoples through their political parties, their trade unions, their civil society organizations and their guild organizations. Needless to say this list is by no means exhaustive. We will also seek to mobilize the unorganized individuals of the continent and the Diaspora who share the vision the African Federalists. We are convinced that once the African masses are educated and/or informed they will, without any possible doubt, powerfully express their preference for a powerful political union instead of a toothless inter-governmental organization.
This Congress will also offer to the African Federalists a platform for brainstorming and exchanging analyses on the present situation and the lessons to be drawn from the past experiences. The attendees of the Congress will elaborate a collegial strategic approach that can lead to the success of the Federalist Project and the building of a strong consensus on how to launch a strong and wide movement with a realistic action plan that can lead to the creation of the United African States in less than a generation.
3) THE OBJECTIVES OF THE CONGRESS
The main objectives of the First African Federalist Congress are drawn from the mission that is defined above. They are:
- Give to the African Federalists of the continent and the Diaspora the opportunity to meet, get to know each other and put together a Federalist network on the continent and throughout the Diaspora.
- Find convincing and realistic answers to the questions asked by those Africans who clearly see the benefits of the Federalist option, but manifest a certain level of skepticism on the feasibility and viability of such compact for the African countries that are at different stages in their political and economic development.
- Launch the campaign for the creation of the United African States (UAS) in less than a generation through a powerful Bottom-Up movement that will allow the African people, the legitimate proprietors of the sovereignty of their states, to express themselves on the form of union they want to promote.
It must be clearly stated here that the goal of this campaign is the organization in each one of the African States of a referendum where the citizens will be able to vote for or against a Federalist Compact.
4) THE EXPECTED OUTCOMES OF THE CONGRESS
To find and implement a new approach that can accelerate the birth of the United African States is the main outcome that we expect from the First African Federalist Congress. Many Congresses, conferences, colloquia and workshops that have been organized on the issue of African unity have produced excellent proposals. The persistent challenge that has not yet been overcome is the lack of credible tools for the implementation of the recommendations which resulted from these gatherings. Today it is clear that the political leaders who have been handed the task of implanting them have never had the necessary political will to do so. One of the reasons why we are convince that we have a better chance to succeed where others have failed is that the participants of this meeting will take upon themselves the task of being the implementers of their Action Plan for the unification of Africa. We will make sure that the room left to chance is minimal, as Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said; “Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.”
We are determined to wage a grassroots campaign to empower the African masses to take ownership of the unification process of their continent because we are convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people wants to unite Africa politically and create the means to get their sons and daughters out of the present quagmire in which they find themselves.
5) DELINEATION AND ORIENTATION OF THE DEBATES
Despite being a gathering of Pan Africanists and sympathizers of Pan Africanism, this Congress is not another Pan African Congress. It is the first African Federalist Congress. The individuals and organizations who will participate must accept beforehand that the Federalist option, contrary to the inter-governmental one which gave birth to the OAU and the AU, is the most appropriate means to transform the non-viable African States, the legacies of colonialism, into the vibrant components of a Federalist Union. This meeting is not intended to be another gathering of academics who will conjecture on the African Ideal. It is the get-together of political activists who are seeking for the realistic means to attain their goal. The aim of this meeting is not to produce resolutions to protest against and/or condemn the impact of other nations’ policies on Africans. Its ambition is to produce an action plan that can realistically lead Africans to the recovery of their dignity and positive sovereignty. What is therefore expected of all the participants are not casual declarations in favor of the African federalist cause but a firm commitment and an unequivocal readiness to be involved in the implementation of the action plan that will be produced by the Congress.
To prevent subjects that are nor of any pertinence to our goal, neither a priority for what we want to achieve to get us off track during the debates, the initiators of the First African Federalist Congress will propose to the attendees an agenda which will center their discussions around:
- Identifying the main obstacles to the political unification of Africa and how they can be overcome.
- Searching for a sound campaign strategy for the birth of the United African States in less than a generation. This campaign is going to be a part of the Action plan towards the birth of the UAS that will be produced by the Congress.
- Coining a communication strategy that can help the African federalists earn the support of the African masses.
- Putting together a campaign machine and producing of a Call to the African people for the endorsement of the federalist option.
6) WHO ARE THE TARGETED PARTICIPANTS TO THE CONGRESS?
The ambition of the authors of the Call for the First African Federalist Congress is to bring together the overwhelming majority of the political parties and civil society organizations operating on the continent and/or throughout the African Diaspora. The aim here is to involve as much as possible the peoples of Africa in this mass movement. We believe, as Cheikh Anta Diop said, that; “African unity, will come from the base and develop as an undercurrent to the present political sterility and economic stagnancy rampant on our continent. A feeling of general insecurity, generated by the ineptitude of African regimes in dealing with the most crucial issues will result in the masses entering the picture sooner or later”. We are convinced that the time Diop was referring to has arrived and the African federalists have the duty to lead the African masses to the right destination, the United African States (UAS)
The intention of the initiators of the Call for the First African Federalist Congress is to also gather as many opinion leaders, who are favorable to the need for African political unity, as possible. We will be reaching out to and inviting to this Congress all the organizations that operate on the continent and throughout the African Diaspora that are interested in the federalist project.
- Political parties
- Trade Unions
- Civil society organizations
- Guild organizations
- Retirees organizations
- Organizations of business leaders
We are aware that some of the people that we will be trying to reach out to do not belong to any organization. This is the reason why, on top of the representatives of the organizations above mentioned we will be also seeking for the participations of individuals to the Congress. These will be people who have demonstrated in the past their unequivocal commitment to African Unity and can be an asset for the implementation of the action plan the Congress will produce. The study of the birth process of the United States of America have taught us that the credibility and vigor of our campaign for the birth of the United African States can be enhanced by involving in it two types of individuals. The first group is the one of persons who are highly visible and well respected throughout the continent and the Diaspora. The second group is the one of individuals who have demonstrated in many ways their passion for the birth of the United African States and are ready to invest their time and resources in a campaign like the one we want to wage. The presence of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin at the Philadelphia Congress in 1787 was a crucial factor for the success of the American federalists. The credibility of these two icons of the independence war made it impossible for the anti-federalist to discredit this event despite the spirited fight they waged against the ratification of federalist constitution. The passion of youngsters like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison for their cause was also a determinant factor for the federalists’ victory. In New York and Virginia they foiled the attempts of powerful anti-federalists like the charismatic governor of New York George Clinton and the unparalleled orator Patrick Henry of Virginia to stop the ratification of the constitution by their states. It is today evident that without the New York and Virginia’s ratification of the constitution, the birth of the United States of America would have been delayed if not impossible. We are convinced that if we African federalists adopt the strategy of the American federalists this can significantly enhance our chances for success. This can help us overcome the obstacles which have thus far blocked our march towards the political unification of Africa. There are many African people on the continent and throughout the Diaspora who espouse the federalists cause and can greatly contribute to the success of the campaign for the birth of United African States in less than a generation. Our challenge today is to find them and get them involve in the Congress or the Post-Congress activities.
7) CONTRIBUTIONS OF ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS TO THE CONGRESS
Needless to say that the success of this Congress and the implementation of the Action Plan it will produce will depend on the level of implication of the organizations and individuals who have endorsed it. Popularizing the Call and mobilizing locally for the participation to the Congress and the implementation of the action plan it will adopt are the concrete actions that will get us closer to the birth of the United African States. By combining and coordinating the actions of the millions of Africanists who dream of seeing an Africa capable of taking care of its sons and daughters on the continent and throughout the Diaspora, we can create the synergy of the forces capable of getting this colossal project to the finish line. Yes this is a herculean task! But we need to dream big if we do not want to continue to be the accessories for the materialization of the big dreams of other nations. We missed Berlin (1884) and Yalta (1945! Today we are the victims of globalization because of our division. The First African Federalists Congress can serve us as a trampoline that can help the continent rebound.
8) FUNDING THE CONGRESS
The organizing committee of the First African Federalist Congress will be in charge of organizing this gathering. It will be composed of representatives of the organizations that have endorsed the initiatives. There will also be in the committee individuals who are willing to invest their time and resources for the success of the Congress.
The organizations that will send delegates to the Congress will be expected to pay for their transportation to the Congress and their accommodations during their participation in the Congress.
The production of all the necessary work documents and the working tools during the Congress will be taken care of by the organizing committee of the First African Federalist Congress.
9) DATE AND VENUE OF THE CONGRESS
After consultations with as many as possible of the targeted participants to the Congress, the initiators of this project will suggest a date and a venue for the event. The final venue and date will be the product of a wide consensus.
10) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
To pave the way for a successful Congress we encourage you to publicize, as widely as possible, the address of this website. We also encourage you to send us publications or texts on African unity that you want to share with the other African federalists. The initiators of this call have created a website. Its address isè http://www.africanpublius.com . You can also contact us at Sonarsen@yahoo.com
All for the birth of the United African States in less than a generation!