By Yohannes Mezgebe*
We should not allow the chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles!
From 10 – 18 July 2016, African leaders will be meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda for the 27thOrdinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU). A key highlight of the forthcoming summit will be the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). The winner, he or she, will lead the continental body for the next four years, renewable once.
The AU was founded, as a premier continental institution for the promotion of accelerated socio-economic and political integration of the continent; not just as the level of countries or governments, but also by forging greater bonds amongst citizens of Africa.
To give expression to the above imperatives, the African Union Commission (AUC) of the AU is tasked to serve as the crucial administrative hub for driving and achieving the numerous mandates; including the implementation of Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. The Commission is, in particular, envisaged to be the key organ responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Union. It represents the Union; the yearnings and aspirations of member states, and also defends the continent’s collective interests. Alongside, it is expected to articulate and give concrete expression to the African common position, determine the strategic vision, plan and future horizons of the Union.
Whatever the AU has become today builds on the pioneering efforts of prominent sons and daughters of the continent; from His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Sellasie to Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, and Seiko Toure, to name a handful. These founding fathers, without an iota of doubts, had a clear vision; they could see far where the continent was heading, almost as if they had the power to look into the future. All of them, without exception, made their mark in the struggle for freedom and liberation. When three years ago, Africans celebrated the 50thAnniversary of the Organization of African Unity/AU, it was a milestone opportunity; both to celebrate but also begin to contemplate how to translate our collective dreams into concrete results to make Africa a better place for the present and future generations. The celebration was the beginning of a new phase in the collective journey, not its end.
Clearly, the AUC has generated considerable amount of momentum around African development and Integration issues. Yet, many of the ‘teething’ challenges the continent faced at inception continue to slow the pace; just as new ones have crept in. Most of today’s problems may be attributed to the slow progress made in the quest for unity and integration. At best, these have remained aspirational despite best of efforts. If 1963 the continent’s leaders were preoccupied with colonial and post-colonial struggles, and the consolidation of independence, nowadays, there are myriad new – no less daunting – realities.
Given the many challenges Africa faces now, the continent needs to have at the helm of the AUC a leaders with proven track records in dealing with Africa’s myriad problems: poverty, resource use, economic development, wealth sharing, peace and security, democracy, human rights, neo-colonialism, environmental protection, climate change and corruption. The list is far from exhaustive. The experience of the new AUC Chair as well as his or her unshakable determination to overcome the challenges – not merely deal with them – would be critical if the continent is to realize the vision of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
Because the AU represents the hope of Africa and its peoples, it must care about the caliber of leaders who aspire to head the Commission. So, in Kigali this July 2016, when convening to elect the incoming Chair and leadership of the Commission, all eyes will be on the Heads of States and Governments to do what is right. They must put aside petty politics and permutations to decide what is best for the AUC and the continent. We stand at a crossroads: if Africa fails to make the right decision in electing the right leader the AUC deserves, the continent risks taking several fatal steps backwards.
Because it does not pay to allow chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles, African citizens must demand a move from mediocrity to excellence. The incoming chairperson must not be determined by which region the candidate comes from but rather by his or her strength of character to lead.
Africa has had its faire share of failures over the years since 1960’s. It still carries old scars and new bruises, but it must look into the future with hope. In 50 years, the architects of Agenda 2063 and those currently tasked with its implementation might no longer be around given the mean life expectancy on the continent. This means, there will not be a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa unless the youth – the very people who will still be around in 50 years – is actively engaged in the process. The message of African youth calls for a different mindset, a different way of thinking, a different way of making decisions and acting. The choice before the Kigali conclave in July will be a tall one.
As they elect the right leader, they will have no better loyal partner than African citizens. They must deliver by all means; posterity will remember and not forgive them doing otherwise. As Frantz Fanon puts it perceptibly decades ago: “Each generation discovers its mission. It either achieves it or it betrays it”.
*Founder, Ubuntu Leadership Institute
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia