THE CONCEPT OF UBUNTU AND YOUTHS PARTICIPATION IN AFRICAN UNION'S INTEGRATION PROCESSES
“A generation of peace-makers is already acting in Africa. African Union leaders should work closely with young people to successfully implement the Agenda 2063”.
By Justice Virgile Rivet Samba Moussinga – Humanitarian Law, Human Rights and Peace Promotion in Africa (Republic of Congo).
The African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together ’’ best highlights the utility of union in the development’s process as the African legacy is oriented toward brotherhood. Community development summarizes this in the concept of “Ubuntu”. In the 1960s, most African countries became independent, and each State has tried to solve development challenges in their own way without any compelling result. After more than fifty years African States are still struggling to fight poverty and each country needs to contribute its resources to achieve the objectives of the AU. Each government should put aside ego, focus on common challenges, and set up a common mechanisms to spur change in every single country. Contrarily, in Europe, after World War II, economic unions (such as the European Economic Community, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Union) were set up to accelerate economic reconstruction. This has yielded great benefits for countries and their citizens despite the desire and choice to exit from unions in Europe. Africa on its part needs “Ubuntu” to be able to survive, effectively integrate the global economy, and secure its legacy.
THE STATE OF MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE AND GOODS WITHIN AFRICA
First of all, the difference in immigration policies in African states obstructs regional integration. Some countries have waived the visa requirement for Africans, yet they only provide visa upon arrival in their territories. Besides, the threats of terrorism has influenced many countries to tighten their immigration policies, and most states have strengthen their borders protecting policies in compliance with the legal principle of intangibility of borders – “Uti possidetis juris ’’. One would therefore observe a patent lack of confidence between States in the trends of people’s movement across Africa. For example, inhabitants of close cities like Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo) and Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) have to obtain a visa in order to move across their cities for a 3-day journey or more. Thus, African governments need to re-think of more pro-Trans African strategies.
Secondly, Africa’s travel infrastructures are under-developed. Aircraft travel is expensive, and people resort to use other means of transportation. But, how many continental highways and railways exist between Morocco and South Africa? The AU launched African passport over a year ago, which if implemented would facilitate movement across Africa. Almost all countries within the CEMAC zone have started to apply visa free policies for CEMAC citizens. Rwanda has recently waived visa requirements for some countries and issues visa upon arrival for nationals of all countries without prior visa application. However, the implementation of continental projects, under negotiation by most states may help foster travel infrastructural development in Africa. Furthermore, the movement of goods is critical and policy makers need to harmonize customs clearance and taxation rules to provide equitable and fair business dealings amongst African citizens. Development requires free circulation of people and goods, and Africa will develop.
THE ROLE OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN AFRICAN UNION’S PEACEBUILDING PROCESSES
More than 729,600,000 Africans are young and represent over 60 percent of Africa’s population. During armed conflicts, young people are targeted and sexually abused or recruited as children soldiers. For example, in 2014, over 6,000 children soldiers were identified in Central Africa during the civil war. This vulnerability as well as the numerical representation of youth makes it is obvious that young people play a vital role in Africa Union’s peacebuilding processes. Many youth organizations are at the fore-front of implementing the sustainable development goals, and several youth initiatives have been set up to engage different groups of young people in peacebuilding’s activities. I salute the outstanding work of the regional Coordination unit of Peace Revolution in Africa. The AU Youth Volunteer Corps is a continental development program that promotes youth (aged 18 to 35) volunteerism in Africa and aims to deepen the status of young people as key actors in Africa’s development targets and goals. It helps young people to share skills, knowledge, creativity and learning to build a more integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent driven by its citizens. This continental experience of youth engagement for peace is such a compelling evidence that we already have the human potential in Africa for a proactive talk and commitment for peace.
During my participation in the Regional Leadership Summit of YALI in June 2016, I was fascinated, as a panelist in a group-discussion on peace and youth involvement, to learn youth successful stories in peacebuilding, including but not limited to providing relief to those in trauma, rebuilding family links with the support of charitable organizations such as International Committee of Red Cross, participating in the demobilization of children soldiers and supporting them to return to their civil life and get the confidence of theirs communities and families. A generation of peace-makers is already acting in Africa, AU leaders should act closely with humanist and dynamic young people to reach a successful score in the implementation of AU Agenda 2063 and Global Sustainable Development Goals.
SOME GLOBAL LESSONS TO HELP AMELIORATE THE AFRICAN UNION AS A REGIONAL INTEGRATION PROCESS
AU’s biggest challenge is to achieve integration using Agenda 2063 mechanism, and drawing lessons from other global integration processes will help achieve this dream. First of all, the charter of AU needs to be updated. Secondly, in addition to the AU Commission, the existing Pan-African parliament should accelerate the adoption of Pan-African integration directives on multiple issues such as immigration, free circulation of goods and services, taxation, science research and other related fields. This Parliament should facilitate the harmonization of domestic laws with the aspiration of the AU, and contribution towards an integrated legal framework for Africa.
Moreover, raising the African Court on Human and People's Rights to an oversight mechanism with independent magistrates will ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the implementation of AU directives and projects as well as ensure that national courts render justice in compliance with community laws. Decisions of Court of Justice and Human Rights will thus serve as precedents, and will influence the harmonization of jurisprudence across Africa. This is of course, not new as a similar approach had been adopted by the member States of the European Union with the emergence of European Court of Human Rights.
Finally, drawing from the US Department of State’s annual action on Human Rights report, AU need to set up assessment committees composed of independent experts to annually assess the level of implementation of AU Agenda 2063. It should evaluate its commitment and dedication to positive change, and assist the AU to generate lessons in its actions, and determine pertinent emerging issues across Africa. This kind of approach should help AU become more practical than theoretical in the formulation of policies.
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