By Aya Chebbi - 01 May 2015
Over the past years, our African unity has been tested constantly to realize that unity is not a one-day celebration or a mere occasional response to threatening events happening across the continent. Unity, instead, shall be a continuous collective struggle and solidarity.
For the past year, Africa has not healed from pain, bloodshed and diseases. From Ebola outbreak in West Africa to the recent crimes in South Africa, and the disaster of endless deaths of Africans sinking in the middle of the Mediterranean; from Al Shabab attacks in Kenya, to the Islamic State killings in Libya, and to Boko Haram massacres in West Africa - a similar pattern of extreme brutality spreading across.
I’m afraid that our sufferings will become normalized and our people will become just numbers and statistical tragedies on indices…
Early this year, over a million people flooded the streets of Paris with more than 40 world leaders participating, protesting the vicious murders of 17 people, including 12 journalists at Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine. While masses marched side by side in the rally at the Boulevard Voltaire, similar tragedies were unfolding on Africa. Just four days before the Paris attacks, Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria (and now in the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon, and the Republic of Niger) carried out its deadliest attack, where more than 2,000 people were slaughtered, including children and women.
These events, when reported in Western media, drew no attention for mass solidarity, but instead, all it could bring to us was travel alerts, tourism and investment threats, and foreign intervention to step into resolving our crises because of the absence of our leadership. Has anyone organized an international protest against the African massacre? Have any African leaders flown to Abuja, Nairobi or Tunis to stand in solidarity with each other?
Likewise, the global outrage over the Chibok abductions, where more than 200 girls still remain kidnapped, was intense but short-lived. The attention of international media soon faded and leadership reaction has been shortsighted. That’s why the kidnapping, killings and abuse by Boko Haram have continued unabated.
I don’t have answers to why these atrocities continue to intensify; I have even more questions. When are we increasing our vigilance and strengthening our collective stand against those who commit such atrocities? When are we starting to treat Africa as our borderless united motherland and not as small divided territories?
The solution to face these atrocities on the continent is not only to ensure short-term security measures or aid, but mainly to work on social and economic development. When are we starting to have a serious talk about economic integration? When are we implementing serious intracontinental collaboration in the attainment of Africa’s development objectives? Africa’s prosperity, as a united continent, will depend essentially on tighter political, trade and economic integration.
As we continue losing our natural and human resources, I am also afraid we are losing our confidence in our civilization, our pre-colonization history, our common identity and ourselves. Usually the unions play a major role in protecting the civilizational values, but our African Union (AU), previously known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU), has failed spectacularly. The AU is strongly based on important principles of unity and pan-Africanism. However, most of us either do not know them, or do not live our lives by them.
African Unity is not only about solidarity within the continent but also our collective response outside. AU member states have rarely voted together in international fora to safeguard common African interests. Regional institutions have had no uniformed mutually beneficial policy towards interacting with outside powers because most of the African countries are eventually bought off by former colonial powers. Sadly, the leaders unite only behind the AU, ECOWAS, CEMAC or SADC to protect each other when abusing and censuring their citizens.
Looking towards the future, we need:
While many of our leaders may have forgotten the treasure of wisdom our ancestors handed down to us, the rest of us should not. So let’s remember the African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
An award winning Tunisian blogger and activist.
Read her personal blog Proudly Tunisian at http://aya-chebbi.blogspot.com