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African Union passports; a wise move by African political leaders


Once a while, it is absolutely refreshing and mind clearing to drift away from the Ghanaian political scene with its assortment of outrageous and pretentious characters and train the spot light on other happenings on the African continent.

Barely two weeks ago, African heads of states met in Kigali, the Rwandan capital to deliberate on issues affecting the continent, yes the annual ritual of our leaders congregating in a chosen African capital city to wine and dine and pretend to be hard at work resolving Africa’s numerous challenges; armed conflicts, economic stagnation and whatever else you can think of.

AU passports, the International Criminal Court, fighting in South Sudan, famine in northeastern Nigeria… were some of the issues discussed at the meeting.

AU passports? Who could have thought of that? This has received scant attention in the Ghanaian press. Modeled after the EU passport system, the AU e passport is an electronic document that permits any AU passport holder to enter any of the 54 AU member states without a visa.

Initially, the passport will be available to AU heads of states, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. By 2018, we could all have AU passports.

I am thrilled beyond description by this development. In fact, it was long overdue. Africans have allowed colonial drawn borders to hinder the movement of goods and people critical to our development.

The AU passports will no doubt increase socio-economic development and reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow free across borders. Let us for once pat our political leaders on the back for such a splendid idea.

African leaders continued their fight with the International Criminal Court, a fight that I think is designed to protect African statesmen who commit genocide and crimes against humanity from facing justice.

The contention that the ICC only targets Africans is hogwash on many fronts. Non-Africans have been tried and jailed by the court. I welcome wholeheartedly the ICC’s policy of prosecuting errant African leaders.

For too long, some African leaders have gotten away with serious crime. The threat of being hauled before the ICC should be enough to keep those African leaders who dare think of violating the rights of their citizens from carrying out their diabolical plans.

The fighting in South Sudan ignited by some trigger happy soldiers and supporters of the President, Salva Kiir, and former first vice president Dr. Riek Machar, lasted a week and claimed several hundred lives while plunging the newest nation in the world to an uncertain future.

South Sudan has disappointed many in the world. It is squandering the goodwill and warmth that greeted it when it finally became an independent sovereign nation five years ago after a protracted civil war. South Sudan’s tragedy reflects badly on Africa. This is a nation with immense oil wealth.

Poor political leadership and ethnicity the underlining causes of the problems in the country are common in other regions of the continent. And we must all keep our fingers crossed that the AU will prevail upon the leaders of South Sudan to come to their senses and bury their differences, if anything at all, for the millions of the country’s civilians who are clearly exhausted of conflict and yearn for peace.

Nigeria’s long struggle with Islamist insurgents Boko Haram is well known. Under the leadership of President Buhari, Nigeria has made remarkable inroads against the group which, since the insurrection in 2009, has killed thousands of innocent civilians and caused despair and misery.

Boko Haram is now a pale shadow of its former destructive self. It is nearly vanquished and does not pose an existential threat to Nigeria anymore. But sadly, the problem of Boko Haram has been replaced with a host of other problems….displacement of the civilian population, low economic activity and famine.

The last particularly galls me because thousands of children are reported to be victims of the famine, 250,000 of them. Nigeria with its immense wealth should worry less about famine. Once again we see official ineptitude at work here.

Yes, our continent has numerous problems and solutions to these challenges continue to elude policy makers. But the efforts to make things better for the millions of Africans still trapped in poverty and civil conflicts should continue unabated.

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