By David L. Horne, Ph.D.
for the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC)
The AU Diaspora proposal was officially announced in 2003-2005. The African Union, via its Constitutive Act (AU Constitution) amendment 3(q), said to the Diaspora, come on home, we want you back. The AU Constitutive Act (AU constitution), as amended in 2003, declared that the AU shall invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union. And to be sure, the Diaspora being invited back to the house by the AU was defined by the AU as people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.
All well and good. However, over twelve years later, the Diaspora has still not been allowed to accept that invitation and build its participatory contribution to the AU’s mission. The Statues of ECOSOCC, established to guide the establishment and the operations of the permanent civil society commission inside the African Union, including the membership from the Diaspora, called for 20 elected civil society members from the Diaspora alongside 130 continental African members. To date there are and have been no elected Diaspora members.
- It has been noted that Article 3(q) of the Constitutive Act has not been ratified by the requisite percentage of AU members. However, that is an irrelevancy. Not only have virtually all of the other amendments approved along with Article 3(q) (none of them ratified either) been implemented into regular AU operations, the AU has continued to trumpet its commitment to the Diaspora, famously including the expensive, widely-promoted Global African Diaspora Summit in South Africa, 2012. Regardless of the ratification issue, the AU has operated as if the Diaspora relationship is a fait accompli, when it is clearly not.
- The AU designated the Diaspora participation to begin in the AU’s ECOSOCC Commission. There was a guide prepared and approved by the AU to instruct those interested in how to achieve that participation called the Statues of ECOSOCC. In Article 3(3), those Statues state, ECOSOCC shall also include social and professional groups in the African Diaspora organizations in accordance with the definition (of the Diaspora) approved by the Executive Council. In Article 5 (3), it is stated, African Diaspora organizations shall establish an appropriate process for determining modalities for elections and elect twenty (20) CSOs (civil society organizations) to the ECOSOCC General Assembly. CIDO, the agency assigned by the AU to manage Diaspora relations, has, for over 12 years, ignored that ECOSOCC instruction. Diaspora organizations which have offered such modalities have been routinely ignored or rebuffed, and all requests for a Technical Workshop sponsored by ECOSOCC or CIDO to arrive at an AU-approved method of electing Diaspora CSOs to ECOSOCC have gone unheeded.
Instead, a highly ineffective strategy of appointing individual members of the Diaspora known to CIDO administrators (like a teacher’s pet) to represent the Diaspora in ECOSOCC (as done in 2008 and again in 2014-15) has yielded nothing of value in the effort to bring the Diaspora into the AU. Here is the truism: No one or two individuals nor one Diaspora organization is capable of representing the Africa Diaspora as a whole inside the AU. There are simply too many variable experiences and interests involved. The appointment of two individuals in 2008—one from Central America and one from the Caribbean—as ex-officio (supposedly non-voting) members of ECOSOCC, as allowed by the Statues, did nothing to move the Diaspora forward toward full participation in the AU. Like a house being built, the foundation must first be laid, and the AU-Diaspora relationship needs such a foundation.
If the two Diaspora members appointed in 2008 had made regular, accurate reports to a Diaspora network of constituents that demonstrated the growing importance of the AU-Diaspora relationship, that would have helped begin the building of the necessary foundation. Unfortunately, only one of those ex-officio Diasporans—the one from the Caribbean Pan African Network (CPAN) did that. It was a start, but clearly not enough. The other appointed representative (from Costa Rica in Central America) simply hoarded whatever information she garnered, and did virtually nothing to build the idea of a meaningful relationship between the AU and the Diaspora even in her own country. That was an opportunity lost.
The 2014-15 appointment of another individual “friend” of a CIDO executive to represent the Diaspora in ECOSOCC has already begun demonstrating the same results as the 2008 appointments. Why won’t CIDO and ECOSOCC follow the approved ECOSOCC Statues? Diasporans need to elect their own representatives and the community education required to do that will also help build a solid foundation for developing the AU-Diaspora relationship.
- There is a prevailing, mistaken view among the few thousand Diasporans already interested in this process that the Diasporans the AU invited are essentially the “modern” Diasporans — those recent migrants from African countries to North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, etc., rather than the “historical” Diaspora — those descendants of victims of the Transatlantic and Arab slave trades. That rumor has been allowed to fester and grow within many Diasporan communities, and there have already been too many Internet comments, meetings, and conferences which have promoted this falsehood, with little attention being paid to correct it. Thus, a toxic rivalry now exists between various groups within the few thousand Diasporans already committed to the AU-Diaspora process over this misunderstanding, and it has negatively affected the further development of that AU-Diaspora relationship.
- The vast majority of the African Diaspora do not feel that they have any meaningful stake (no “skin in the game”) in building the AU-Diaspora relationship. What can or will such a relationship do to stop police shootings of unarmed African Americans, or daily racial discrimination in Canada, or continued government seizure of citizenship homes and property in Central America, or the annual celebrations of Swarte Peete in the Netherlands? Of course, a well-laid out and marketed information campaign can correct that situation, but none is currently operating towards that goal (including the Legacy Projects).
Suggested Strategies to Move Forward
**The overall goal of these combined activities is to build a very strong foundation for the AU-Diaspora relationship and to begin to build the whole house necessary for the Diaspora to evolve into its Sixth Region status and its rightful place within Agenda 2063.
- The AU, through CIDO or ECOSOCC, should immediately schedule and hold a Technical Workshop to Establish a Viable Plan to Elect 20 Diasporans to the AU. This has been promised for several years, but continually postponed. All Diasporan organizations with plan proposals should be heard and voted on at this gathering, and one general plan that can be adjusted for each of the various Diasporan communities should be adopted and promulgated. Along with the AU, the Diaspora should be willing to support financially whatever plan proposal is adopted.
- Howard University annually hosts a Model African Union conference which draws upwards of 500 students from various colleges and universities. Ambassador Amina Ali has provided the opening keynote address for this gathering for the last three years. The AU should get even more involved in this annual conference, presenting a Kwame Nkrumah/Haile Selassie/N.D. Zuma award for the best diplomatic delegation. The AU should encourage more regional Model AU conferences in different parts of the Diaspora. One already occurs in Georgia/South Carolina during the fall, and a new one is presently being scheduled in California in November. An international one regularly occurs in London. These gatherings promote the idea of youth learning to represent different African members of the AU, immersing themselves in the histories and foreign policy positions of those countries, and using diplomacy to practice arriving at solutions to real issues the AU faces. All of the African Studies Departments and Programs in the U.S.A., Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe will be asked to create teams, if they have not already done so, and to further support teams if already engaged.
- The Diaspora must be allowed to promote the real possibility of dual-citizenship opportunities becoming available to members of the Diaspora. That is something to strive for within Diasporan communities. Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL, which is still a very viable entity, already has a well-developed dual citizenship process which should be further explored and possibly adopted. The U.N.I.A. process requires Diasporans interested in dual citizenship to meet a criteria, including having at least the minimum resources on hand not to become a burden on the African country to which they migrate. Every volunteer does not get to go—there are mutual obligations to be fulfilled.
- The Legacy Projects which are a result of the Global African Diaspora Summit, 2012, have thus far been a bust, with the World Bank seizing control of remittances and other elements. Two ideas also agreed upon in the final Declaration document from the Global African Diaspora Summit need to be implemented at once — the Diaspora Consultation Forum, and the Diaspora Advisory Board. There should be a public report provided to the various Diasporan networks each time there is a meeting of each of those entities.
- There should be a proliferation and re-energizing of regional annual Pan African cultural festivals in the Diaspora, including Pan African film festivals and inter-cultural activities such as those that occur annually in the Virgin Islands and other parts of the Caribbean.
- Eventually, the African Diaspora needs to become a Regional Economic Community in order to become an equal part of the AU. Towards building that SREC, African Diaspora Chambers of Commerce need to be established in every part of the Diaspora in order to construct a network of economic support, trade and business activity among the various Diasporas. Included in this would be legislative activity to aid economic development in Africa and the Diaspora, for example, the recent successful re-approval of an expanded African Growth and Opportunity Act ( AGOA) in the U.S.A., with the help of the Diaspora. Currently, there is at least one annual Pan African Business and Trade Conference that occurs annually in California towards completing the building of this economic network throughout the Diaspora. It should be supported and duplicated elsewhere.
- Based on one of the other decisions made at the Global African Diaspora Summit, elected Diasporans should have the opportunity to join the Pan African Parliament, at first as Observers, and later as full-fledged voting members.
- A Speaker’s Bureau specifically to schedule lectures on the viability of Agenda 2063 and the place of the Diaspora within that agenda should be established immediately. Black History Month 2016 and beyond should see such presentations.
- There currently exists an African basketball team started by former NBA players Manute Bol (now an Honored Ancestor), Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo. It is suggested that the AU negotiate with these players-owners to call the team the African Union basketball team, and to take that team on tour throughout the Diaspora, playing marketed games with Diasporan teams, similar to the lengthy tours of the Harlem Globetrotters, who traveled all over the world as cultural ambassadors.
- The AU should sign more Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Diasporan organizations willing to work hard to help build the AU and develop Africa, similar to the MOU the AU recently signed with the chief organizers of the so-called 8th PAC which met in Accra, Ghana in March, 2015. There are several regional-level Diaspora organizations that are quite capable, prepared and quite ready to do this.