Lecture at the Nigerian
Institute of International Affairs Lagos, 4 December
In his book Does America need a Foreign Policy?, Henry
African countries have a high propensity for
civil war. And if tribal and ethnic loyalties extend
across national frontiers, as they do in an extraordinarily
large number of cases, civil wars turn into international
wars. In this manner, what started as a civil war in
Zaire abetted by the Western powers in the name
of democracy had led to the disintegration of
much of the central authority. Now renamed Congo, the
country has become an arena for the competition of other
Later he goes on to write that
the (African) continent is a tragedy: it is also
a challenge. Africa`s variety inhibits concerted action:
the scope of its crises nevertheless demands a significant
response. The idealism of the American people- its Wilsonian
commitment and its basic decency- is being tested here,
as well as its practical creativity. Realism should
illuminate America`s understanding of the underlying
problems. But without the moral commitment of the American
people and the international community, Africa`s tragedy
will turn into the festering disaster of our age.
But commenting about the United States and the international
community to which Kissinger referred, Ngugi wa Thiongo
in his book: Writers in Politics says:
And really we cannot expect that those who benefit
from our crippled positions will come and say unto us:
throw off those crutches and walk. On the contrary,
when we complain too much, they are more likely to give
us golden ones and want to replace those made of wood.
But surely it is unto us to have the will to say: away
with all crutches of whatever make or model. We have
to summon the collective will to decide that, if we
shake hands with others in whatever forms of cooperative
ventures and exchange, it will be on the basis of our
standing on our two feet, however wobbly, rather than
firmly leaning on any crutches. But what have we done
as opposed to what has been done to us? What lessons
have we really learnt from our ancestors who fought
so resolutely against slavery and colonialism.
We have actually made a mockery of the gift (of
independence). At a glance our post independence period
has seen the devaluation of our African unity and pan-Africanism,
the devaluation of intellect and intellectual achievement,
and worst of all, the devaluation of African lives.
This situation raises the inevitable question: what
gift shall we, the living, bequeath to the unborn? What
Africa shall we hand over to the future?
These are two diametrically opposed approaches to the
future of our continent. According to Dr Kissinger we
as Africans can do nothing to ensure that our continent
ceases to be what he calls a tragedy. Rather, we should
rely on the idealism and moral commitment of the American
people and the rest of the international community to
take us out of our misery.
None of us could ever accept this proposition. However
poor we may be we will never lose pride in ourselves
as Africans and human beings. The task we face is to
respond to the critical remarks made by Ngugi wa Thiongo.
I think we must accept that in good measure we have
made a mockery of the gift of independence. I also think
we must accept that we have allowed the devaluation
of intellect and intellectual achievement and worst
of all, the devaluation of African lives.
We must therefore answer the questions honestly- what
gift shall we, the living, bequeath to the unborn.?
What Africa shall we hand over to the future?
In this regard I believe that we should first of all
make a determination that we shall be our own liberators
from poverty and underdevelopment, from dictatorship
and tyranny, from war and instability. We must together
take the decision that we shall determine our future.
Secondly, we must reaffirm the fundamental truth that
as Africans we share a common destiny. This means that
we cannot but be concerned about one another. It means
that we must recognise the reality that none of us can
prosper in peace if our African neighbour is weighed
down by misery. It also means that we must understand
that what each one of us does has an impact on the other.
Thus should we respond to Ngugi`s cry that we have devalued
African unity and pan- Africanism.
Henry Kissinger has described our continent as a tragedy
because of what we and others have done to the peoples
of our continent. He says it is a tragedy because we
have had a history of military coups and dictatorships.
He says it is a tragedy because we have waged the most
merciless wars against one another, including the commission
of the crime of genocide, as though African lives were
worth nothing. He says that Africa`s tragedy will turn
into the festering disaster of our age because he sees
a continent that is steadily getting more and more impoverished.
Because we have failed ourselves in the past he has
come to the conclusion that we will never succeed in
future unless those who benefit from our crippled positions
extend a helping hand to us, enabling us to walk.
Our own experience must therefore tell us what we need
to do. It is clear that we have to order our political
and constitutional systems so that, as a historic document
of our liberation struggle puts it, the people shall
govern. We have to act together to ensure that our continent
becomes a continent of democracy and human rights.
This has nothing to do with prescriptions handed down
to us by those richer and more powerful than us. The
struggle for democracy is a struggle to enable every
African to play a role in deciding the future of our
countries and continent. It is driven by the commitment
we must all make to respect and promote the dignity
of all Africans.
We have to ensure that we end the scourge of war on
our continent. In this regard, because of our interdependence
and indeed because we share a common destiny; we have
to agree that we cannot be ruled by a doctrine of absolute
national sovereignty. We should not allow the fact of
the independence of each one of our countries to turn
us into spectators when crimes against the people are
being committed. It is true that each of our governments
derives its mandate and legitimacy from its electorate.
This would seem to suggest that everybody else should
therefore stay out of the business of each of our states.
But again if we are to deny the perspective projected
by Dr Kissinger, that we will turn into the festering
disaster of our age, we will have to proceed from the
position that we are each our brothers and sisters keeper.
We must act to end poverty and underdevelopment on
our continent. What this requires first of all, is that
we must think for ourselves. We should never allow this
situation again that others prescribe for us what we
should do. We must elaborate our own development programmes
and take responsibility for their success.
This must include ensuring that our states have the
capacity to play a developmental role, from the local
to the national sphere of government. We have to inculcate
a different ethos among the public servants informed
by the principle expressed in our country as the People
First. I know that this is easier said than done. But
critically important in this regard is the fact that
the political leadership itself must lead by example.
In this context it is also vitally important that we
fight and defeat the scourge of corruption. We cannot
speak of African renewal and allow the situation to
persist that some among us abuse their positions of
authority and power to steal from our countries and
the masses of our people. So long as we allow this to
continue, so long will the victory over poverty and
underdevelopment elude us.
It is perfectly clear that our continent is not entirely
bereft of the human and material resources we need to
address the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment.
Accordingly it cannot be true that there is nothing
we can do to promote our own development. Rather than
wait for the helping hand of another, we have to draw
on our capacities for self reliance; self reliance in
the design of our development programmes, self reliance
in their implementation, self reliance in ensuring that
they benefit the poor. This by no means implies that
we repudiate mutually beneficial partnerships with others.
What it means is that we should not, even mentally,
turn ourselves into slavish dependents of foreign aid.
I am certain that we all agree with everything I have
said so far. The challenge is determining what we should
do together to disappoint the prediction that we will
turn into the festering disaster of our age.
I genuinely believe that we have taken the first steps
towards the renaissance of our continent. I am convinced
that if we sustain the initiatives represented by the
African Union and its development programme NEPAD, as
we must, we will advance towards meeting the goals I
have already stated. A central point to keep in mind
in this regard is that both of these initiatives have
been ratified, confirmed and accepted by all African
countries. They therefore constitute a pledge we have
made to one another that we will act together to reaffirm
African unity and pan- Africanism, and promote the common
goal of a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Africa.
The African Union was established on the basis of the
Constitutive Act. This law was approved by all our parliaments
and therefore has the force of any other law. The Union
is proceeding to elaborate and approve a protocol that
will enable the establishment of an African Court of
Justice. It must surely be one of the tasks of this
court to ensure that all of us implement and respect
the Constitutive Act which was approved by our Parliaments.
To illustrate the importance of this matter, let us
cite some of the objectives of the Union spelt out in
the Constitutive Act. It says that among others, the
Promote peace, security, and stability on the
Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular
participation and good governance;
Promote and protect human and peoples rights in accordance
with the African Charter on Human and People`s Rights
and other relevant human rights instruments.
The Principles contained in the Act include such provisions
Promotion of gender equality;
Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the
rule of law and good governance;
Promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic
Respect for the sanctity of human life, condemnation
and rejection of impunity and political assassination,
acts of terrorism and subversive activities;
Condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes
All of us have accepted that these are legal and binding
obligations on all of us singly and collectively. The
seriousness of our intention to ensure that we live
up to our commitments is not only reflected in the decision
to establish the African Court of Justice. It is also
reflected in the provision within the Constitutive Act
for the imposition of sanctions. The relevant article
reads as follows:
Furthermore, any Member State that fails to
comply with the decision and policies of the Union may
be subjected to other sanctions, (other than denial
of the right to participate in the proceedings of the
Union) such as the denial of transport and communications
links with other Member States, and other measures of
a political and economic nature to be determined by
But I also believe that we have to make certain that
our peoples are mobilised to ensure that the Union honours
its commitments. It is therefore very important that
we should do everything possible to popularise the Union
and sensitise the masses of our people to the new opportunities
that have emerged which signal that nobody will ever
be abandoned again to suffer in silence from a domestic
The Pan- African parliament originally provided for
in the Abuja Treaty, and incorporated in the Constitutive
Act is scheduled to have its first session in February
in Addis Ababa. We look forward to the work of this
continental body of our elected representatives itself
to play a critical role as a guardian of the Constitutive
Act, the Charter on the Human and Peoples Rights and
other instruments that relate to freedom and democracy
for the people of our continent.
We will all have to ensure that the Economic, Social
and Cultural Council of the Union is convened as soon
as possible, the preparatory work having been completed.
This ECOSOCC will be composed of different social and
professional groups of the Member States of the Union,
the so called civil society. This will give the opportunity
to this important voice of our people to impact directly
on the decision that the Union will take affecting the
future of our continent.
Of the greatest importance the Act observes that the
scourge of conflicts in Africa constitutes a major impediment
to the socio-economic development of the continent and
of the need to promote peace, security and stability
as a prerequisite for the implementation of our development
integration agenda. In this regard, and given
the importance of this matter the Principles contained
in the Constitutive Act include:
Prohibition of the use of force or threat to
use force among Member States of the Union;
The right of Member States to request intervention from
the Union in order to restore peace and security;
The right of the Union to intervene in a Member State
as pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect
of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide
and crimes against humanity.
In this regard, perhaps responding to Ngugi`s denunciation
that we have devalued African lives, the Union has taken
a formal decision reflected in law, that none of our
countries, relative to the Union enjoys unlimited sovereignty
and is therefore free to do with its people what it
The Protocol that will be approved to establish the
Peace and Security Council contains provisions for an
early warning system. This is natural given the attention
the Union is correctly paying to the matter of peace,
security and stability. However this also has implications
with regard to the matter national sovereignty.
The early warning system will be instituted to create
the possibility for the African Union to intervene in
situations where it feels that there is a threat to
peace and security. It is therefore an important part
of a system of preventive interventions that we need,
to ensure that tensions in any one of our countries
do not necessarily escalate into conflict. However this
means that the Union will have the duty and possibility
to make determinations about what we might consider
to be domestic matters but which the Union might see
as a potential source of problems about which it should
As independent states we have developed in the context
of a largely unbridled respect for the notion of national
sovereignty. We must therefore foresee somewhat of a
struggle to ensure that the approach adopted by the
African Union towards African integration and unity
wins the day. But clearly this will not be an easy struggle.
Of course the second major development with regard
to the first steps we have taken towards the renewal
of our continent is the New Partnership for Africa`s
Development (Nepad). The critical point we must emphasise
in this regard is that this is a partnership in the
first instance among the Africans themselves. It has
to be a partnership within countries and a partnership
among countries, in pursuit of the agreed development
This comes back to the point we made earlier about
the need for us to ensure that the masses of our people
are mobilised to participate in the process of change.
The development we seek to achieve should not treat
the people as mere beneficiaries of such progress as
we will make, but as actors to bring about that progress.
Indeed, this progress may not be possible without their
But as we have said this must also be a partnership
among our countries. It is obvious that the regional
economic communities such as ECOWAS are important instruments
to help us cement this inter-African partnerships. Necessarily
therefore we have to pay the greatest attention to strengthening
them because without them, it would never be possible
to achieve the goal of African economic integration.
However, the reality with regard to this matter is that
the regional economic communities are at different levels
of development. Nevertheless all of them require one
kind of intervention or another.
The third leg of this partnership obviously relates
to the rest of the world outside our continent. We are
in the fortunate situation that now and perhaps for
the first time, the rest of the world has accepted that
we have a right and duty to determine our own path of
development. Therefore the international community as
a whole has accepted the Nepad programme, including
its priorities. The Nepad structure has also been accepted
by that international community as a legitimate interlocutor,
truly representative of the developmental aspirations
of the peoples of our continent.
That international community has also accepted that
we must redefine the relations especially between ourselves
and the developed world. As we had to, we have said
that the relationship of donor and recipient must become
a thing of the past. It must be replaced by the partnership
of which we have spoken, which must both respect our
right to determine our future and impose a common obligation
on our partners to implement what they would have agreed,
and be mutually accountable to one another.
These positions have been agreed. But of cause the
taste of the pudding is in the eating. Practice will
tell the extent to which all of us have internalised
the concept of the new partnership. It would not surprise
any one of us if that practise confirms the saying that
old habits die hard. But we too will have to overcome
any habit in terms of which we might have become accustomed
to being the recipients of the magnanimity of others.
As a token of our seriousness to ensure that our development
programmes succeed, we have instituted the African Peer
Review Mechanism. This will enable us voluntarily to
assess one another`s progress with regard to the matters
that are fundamental to the achievement of our development
goals. I refer here to the questions of good political,
economic and corporate governance.
This peer review system is not intended to serve as
an instrument for exclusion or punishment. We are fully
aware of the reality that these matters of good governance
require time and resources. The intention of the peer
review mechanism is to supply the information and establish
the systems which would make it possible for us as African
countries to advise and support one another as we build
the institutions and systems that would make it possible
for us to achieve the goals set by the African Union.
From all of this, it is clear that we shall have to
pay the greatest attention to the strengthening of the
continental structures of both the African Union and
Nepad. I am certain that of critical importance in this
regard, we would be well advised to ensure that we finance
these structures ourselves. It will not do that for
the viability of these important institutions we depend
on donor support.
Ngugu wa Thiongo asked the questions what gift shall
we, the living, bequeath to the unborn? What Africa
shall we hand over to the future? Henry Kissinger answered
that we had no possibility to redefine ourselves as
other than a continent that is a tragedy.
If we do the things we have said we will do, we will
say to Ngugi wa Thiongo that the Africa that we will
hand over will no longer be an Africa of dictators,
of war, of poverty, and of petrified masses, terrified
of the power that should serve their interests. If we
do the things we said we will do, we will show Dr Kissinger
that rather than being the festering disaster of our
age, Africa the cradle of humanity, will emerge as the
hope of all humanity.