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EDITORIAL

AU: 57 Years Of Mixed Grill

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In its 57 years, the African Union, a continen- tal body consisting of  55 member states which started as Organisa- tion of African Unity (OAU)
on May 25,1963, has expe- rienced high moments wor- th celebrating and periods
of crises that challenged its existence and relevance as a  body set up to foster unity and cohesion among its member
states and peoples.
Within that time frame, many African countries gained their independence
from colonial rule. But by far, its greatest achievement, in our view, was the release of Nelson Mandela from prison
after 27 years of incarcera- tion, the eventual elimination of Apartheid minority white rule in South Africa and the institution of black majority
rule.
Those years also witnessed serious political upheavals, coups against democratically elected governments and civil wars. Dictatorships were pre- ponderant with the accom- panying human right viola- tions and abuses tosuch an extent that some wished for
the reinstatement of colonia- lism.
The idea of creating the AU which was championed by Muammar Ghaddafi and
Kwame Nkrumah before him was revived in the mid-1990s and culminated in the heads of state and government of the
OAU issuing the Sirte, Libya Declaration on September 9, 1999, calling for the establi- shment of an African Union.
The Declaration was followedby summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adop- ted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the plan for the im- plementation of the African
Union was adopted. Duringthe same period, the initiative for the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s
Development (NEPAD) was also established.
The African Union was launched in Durban on July 9, 2002, by its first chairperson, South African Thabo Mbeki,
at the first session of the As- sembly of the African Union.
The second session of theAssembly was in Maputo in 2003, and the third session in Addis Ababa on July 6, 2004.
The AU, since inception, can count as its achievement the flourishing ofdemocracy of various shades. It is important
to observe that since that date in 1999, Africans have been given an opportunity to have a say in who governs them. The
Arab Spring that consumed one of its founding fathers was an uprising against dicta- torship and sit tight leadership.
In the opinion of this news- paper, the main challenge of the Union is not all ics as demanding as it is.
There are issues relating tohealth, education and unem- ployment that has given rise to the deadly mass exodus to Europe, an expedition that has claimed many lives and the subjection of Africans to in- human treatment when some
manage to succeed in this mo- dern day slavery.
The continent is plagued by one disease after another. It used to be malaria and other child killer diseases. But the
emergence of Acquired Im-muneDeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Ebola, Lassa fever and now, the king of them all,
Coronavirus (Covid-19) is ta- king a toll on the lean resources available to the continent justas it continues to expose Afri- ca to the rest of the world as
object of derision.
There are also economic issues such as
high debt overhang. Most of these debts, described as traps set for developing countries, are exacerbating poverty in
the continent. The money that ought to have been used for development is used to ser- vice these dubious debts.
Without gainsaying it, this appalling situation has, in the process, created resource la- cuna as not much is left to im- prove the standard of living
of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans. And be- cause there are nor resources, ecological issues such as dea- ling with recurring famines,desertification, and lack of
ecological sustainability; as well as the legal issues regar- ding Western Sahara remain sore points in the diary of AU.
But the most destructive ma- laise threatening the continent and eating deep into the fabricof the Union is corruption in
high places. It has continued to cast a moral burden on Afri- can leaders. This is one feature of African leadership which is depleting scarce resources urgently needed for develop- ment. That also explains the low rating of African coun- tries in all indices of human development. Corruption iswhy education facilities and
out of school children in Afri- ca are creating concerns in the world.
The Covid-19 pan- demic is beginning to expose the weaknesses in the health
sector too. These children who do not have the opportu- nity to go to school constitute a pool of recruits for terrorists
who are destroying the little infrastructure there are in the continent.
But it is not all lamenta- tions. The continent, in our considered opinion, has thefuture ahead of it. All that is required is for the leaders to reassess themselves, retrace their faulty footsteps, elimi- nate all human obstacles to development and consolidateon successes so farrecorded. It can be done.

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