The African Union and the African Diaspora Part I

Ph.D. | 11/16/2011, 5 p.m.

We've been invited to the table.

The African Union (AU), the linear descendant of the OAU (Organization of African Unity), and the spiritual descendant of governmental leaders who were also Pan Africanists, has called us to the negotiation and discussion table to engage the issue of Africa's future. Historically, this is the first time we, the Diaspora as a whole, have been so honored.

There is no question that we both want to and need to accept that invitation. Problematic though is how we can realistically do that given the fact that the Diaspora has not yet firmly defined itself nor thought of itself collectively as a distinct body of Africans and African descendants. In order to rise up to the level of the trust bestowed on us by the invitation, we must agree upon and accept some self-imposed boundaries, restrictions and conditions on our existence as a unit of representation called the Diaspora.

What does that mean? For one, it means we need to agree on and accept a general definition of who we are as the Diaspora. Secondly, we need to agree on a general method of choosing representatives to speak for us at the various AU commissions, meetings, councils and eventually, the Pan African Parliament.

Article 3(q) of the AU's amended Constitutive Act, "invite(s) and encourage(s) the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union." Currently, only one AU permanent organ, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ESOCC), has designated spaces for 20 members from the Diaspora. Based on a tentative, but operational and current Diasporan agreement, this roughly means four will come from the United States of America, one from Canada, three from the Caribbean, three from Central America, four from South America, and five from Eurasia (Europe and Asia). Once our presence and performance has begun in the AU as elected/selected representatives, there will be places for the Diaspora in many other advisory committees, sub-committees and working groups, including, ultimately, the Pan African Parliament.

Frequently asked questions about the AU and the Diaspora.

1. QUESTION: What is the AU?
ANSWER: The AU, the African Union, is the linear descendant of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The OAU ceased to exist in 2001-2002 with the birth of the AU. This is the African government-centered, continent-wide body of 54 member states (Morocco has not joined, but South Sudan has) established to represent the joint interests of African countries, and to eventually create a Union of African States/United States of Africa, which will be a single country of Africa to replace the current 55 countries, most likely in a broad federation. The AU has laid out, on paper, a road map for the creation of a real Pan African unification, and the Diaspora is a big part of those plans.

2. QUESTION: What is the Diaspora?
ANSWER: In 2005, the AU defined the Diaspora as "... peoples of African descent and heritage living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship, and who remain committed to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union." Geographically, this large African descendant population, variously estimated to be between 200-350 million folk, is to be found in the U.S.A., Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America (including Brazil), and Europe, with Asian, Oceania and Asian-Pacific populations still to be determined. Along with African descendant status (essentially identified by skin color), one's commitment to African development and unification is a significant part of the definition. Thus, skin color may be necessary, but it is not sufficient to claim Diasporan membership, according to the AU.