An Irony of History

African leaders are convening in Addis Abeba for their annual summit. As they go about their annual tributes, however, the leaders seem to have forgotten the price paid to realise the African Union. It is puzzling to see leaders convening to strengthen unity failing to pay due tribute to the death of Africans, in Africa, by Africans.

African leaders who are currently attending their perennial African Union (AU) conventions in Ethiopia seem deaf to occurrences in the very land where our forebears had signed the charter for establishing the Organization of African Unity (OAU). That charter had set the vision of the leaders and the noble wishes enshrined therein. Fifty years have gone by and little more than promoting the organisation to the AU level has been achieved during its journey.

The OAU was not without its pros and cons, considering the challenges it had to overcome over the years. Among the positive achievements the AU of so far, are the practical actions of deploying peacekeeping forces. This is, of course, following the noble commitments of our forefathers to give voice to the struggle to free all the countries that were still under the yoke of colonization and apartheid.

Half a century ago, the number of the free African countries who had signed the OAU charter was only 32. The number has now risen to 54. That number did not come out of the magic hat just like that. It came with significant loss of life and property. The AU has become off age after years of discussions and conferences filled with debates. There were differences of schools of thoughts to be ironed out and reach the common ground.

These conferences were often nicknamed “talkshops”. But the struggles have been taken up from the ground by some prominent African leaders who had left the political scene making names and fame for themselves and for their countries.

African countries have become masters of their own destinies. They have carved their futures to forge genuine unity both in words and deeds. They have tried to identify their problems, have tried to set priorities. Identifying their potential. African leaders have organised themselves into sub-regional organisations to forge unity and exploit their resources to curb poverty.

In terms of infrastructure, they had designed the Cairo-Gaborone as well as the East-West highway construction in order to strengthen their unity. In terms of telecoms, the “AFROSAT” Project to launch the first African Satellite in orbit was signed at a conference in the Nigerian capital Abuja in 1991. Ethiopia had sent a delegation led by the then Vice Minister of Communication, Bekel Geletta. I was part of the Abuja delegation.

It is indeed a pity that Africa has not advanced as it should have, considering the growth in the number of educated or informed youth over the years. Africa is still on the stage of clearing the bush. The Interahamwe ethnic-based massacre is still fresh in our memories. The world cannot feel free from its guilt over that horrendous episode to this day.

The other day, the EU Parliament took up the case of Ethiopia and held lengthy discussions to sort out what was going on in the country during the past couple of weeks when Oromo students and farmers were killed by the security forces. These men and women were only trying to peacefully demonstrate their opposing views. Over 140 fell to their death by bullets shot from the firearms of forces who were supposed to protect them.

Their so called leaders had let them down. To the contrary the leaders have gone far as to praise and pay tribute to the killers who are paid by the taxpayers. That is an irony of history.

The AU observers of the May elections had reported that there were certain polling stations which were open even before the observers were on site. These discrepancies were noted by innocent observers.

Today, however, AU members have convened at Meqelle to discuss agendas which were like business as usual.  But the price paid by Oromos has not disappeared into thin air.

The EU Parliament, unlike the AU, has raised the issue and discussed it at length trying to bring it to the attention of the world before it crops up again to the level of chaos.

Painkillers do not serve as lasting cures. The Addis Ababa and Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Master Plan issue is only the last straw on the camel’s back – just a symptom of the main ailment lying underneath, until differences are ironed out by holding conferences around the table. This should not be difficult to do considering whatever steps have been taken so far. The best remedy is not locking horns but engaging in dialogue over issues in a civilized way. This is also what the AU should promote.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Feb 01,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 822]



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