The Politics of a United African States Under Federalism

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, Ph.D OW Oped | 1/23/2020, 10:12 a.m.

Presently, there is a major push afoot to organize African folk globally toward a movement to reorganize Africa—a United African States, no less—into a big federated state, ala the United States, or Nigeria. While this is an excellent suggestion, there are major cautions to pay attention to immediately.

First, without getting into Political Science 101, federalism is not a form of government. Neither is Unitarianism and Confederation. All three are organizations of government, and none of them pre-suppose democracy, monarchy, theocracy, autocracy or oligarchy, which are recognized forms of government. Thus, one can have a monarchy organized into a unitary state, or a theocracy organized into a federal state, etc.  Russia and Bosnia are presently listed as federal states in the U.N.’s assessments, and clearly they are not democratic.

Assuming that those who advocate Pan African federalism are advocating a unified Africa as a democratic federation, then it must be a fact that they are also advocating a new Africa as a democratic republican federation in which African citizens elect their leaders at all levels. A federation makes no assumption of democracy.  Looking at present-day Africa, it is clear that ensuring there is guaranteed democracy is as much, or more, the issue than how to organize that democracy. Federation without democracy is simply another rabbit hole for African people.

Currently, Comoros, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Sudan are listed as African federal states by the United Nations, and sound democratic governments are not the norm in any of them. Most of the rest of the continent languishes in different versions of autocracy, monarchy or tribal oligarchy, even when there are occasional elections. (The U.N. also only lists Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Senegal as hybrid democracies, and Mauritius as the only full democracy in Africa.)

A second important point is that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of an independent Ghana, and the worldwide champion of a united African federalism according to virtually all of those advocating this new, 21st century Pan Africanism, was the announced author of at least 24 books, with some 10 of them focused specifically on African unification, and published in different years. It is most likely a safe assumption that the later years showed the maturation of Nkrumah’s thinking on the same topic—for example, how best to politically organize Africa for the future success of all Africans. The vast majority of modern-day Pan Africanists only rely on his books published in the 1960s for a lot of the positions they take on the federalism issue without looking at those books published later and that deal with the same topic in a more advanced way. That seems counter-productive.

Additionally, in none of those books does Nkrumah provide a planning model for a unified, federated Africa. That task has been left to later Pan African authors like C.A. Diop, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Godfrey Mwakikagile, Pelle Danobo, Mueni wa Muiu, and others.

That being said, Africa is entirely too large for it not to be politically organized into a single federal state. A unitary or confederate state will not do. That is only logistically logical for a united democratic Africa to operationally exist. Those trying to organize the new Pan African movement—take heed:  Finding a quote or two from Nkrumah’s writing to justify the importance of federalism is not necessary. The facts of the situation (population, land size, etc.) make a particularized federalism a necessity.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO).

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