Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Botswana resisting the establishment of United States of Africa

On the last day of its meeting Friday, Ntlo ya Dikgosi heard that Botswana is still apprehensive about the establishment of a United States of Africa.

Minister Dikgakgamatso Seretse told the House that Botswana is opposed to the creation of ministerial posts at the continental level, the formation of a unified African army, introduction of a single African passport, free movement of people on the African continent and membership without determined criteria.

“I wish to underline the fact that Botswana is fully committed to continental unity. We are convinced that this is the ultimate objective of the African Union. But the process must be a gradual one, taking into account the wishes of our people so that in the end we can achieve a unity of the peoples of Africa based on the common values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. It cannot be unity of leaders alone,” said Seretse, who at the time was acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Alongside South Africa, Botswana has been chosen to represent the southern Africa region in the Committee of Ten Countries of the African Union. The committee will consider and make recommendations on the creation of the US of Africa. Seretse said that after several years of “intense debate” it has become apparent that most African countries are not ready for an AU government.

“Many members are of the view that the creation of an African Union government has serious political, constitutional and financial implications. It must be carefully and properly thought through before any binding decisions are made,” the minister said.

One of the major constraints to the US of Africa that Seretse identified is disharmony between African states on political and policy practice.

“Some countries in Africa can be described as ungovernable – for example, Somalia – whilst others do not allow multi-party elections,” Seretse said.

However, a majority of AU members have agreed on a gradualist approach that begins with integration at the level of regional economic communities such as the Southern African Development Community.

“Botswana is of the considered view that the integration of Africa should be bottom-up and therefore anchored on the achievements of the regional economic communities. That is, the focus should be on strengthening organisations like SADC, which would then serve as the building blocks towards continent-wide integration. But equally important the decision to create a union government should involve all the people on the continent, it should not be decision made by leaders alone,” Seretse said.
One leader whose enthusiasm about the US of Africa is legendary is Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi. He has been calling for its establishment since 2000.

Seretse’s quite elaborate briefing to the house was prompted by a question from Kgosi Kgomotso Boiditswe of Serowe region. Supposing the US of Africa materialised, African traditional leaders may find themselves playing second fiddle to Gaddafi who was crowned “King of Kings” by a section of African traditional leaders, sultans, sheiks and mayors from Muslim North Africa during ceremonies in the city of Benghazi last August. These leaders form the Forum of African Traditional Leaders, which meets every September 9 in Sirte – Gaddafi’s birthplace. Of Gaddafi’s recently acquired royalty, a Ugandan Muslim scholar has observed: “If he overthrew a king, how does he now turn around and call himself King of Kings?”

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.