Africa and Diaspora Engagement

Published on 7th January 2020

When vested interest groups, assorted individuals, or spokespeople represent their own their whims, plots and plans, the liberty is theirs. Just as well, they are those who oppose or do not share their interests and/or methods. Within this reality, it smacks of churlish hubris for people to claim they possess the method of deliverance of Africa from the Diaspora - and assuming all are either riders or violators.

Fellow Africans, there is absolutely nothing wrong in informed criticism, healthy skepticism, and calling for accountability in public stewardship. As humans, our basic nature cries out for justice. But the accusations and insults rained on the Chairperson of the AU Commission in the social media have also found leeway for outright barbarism, narcissistic displays, visceral outbursts, delusional bravado, to noise and nonsense raised purportedly as the voice of, or speaking for, "Africa Diaspora."

There are different leadership styles. Apparently, H.E Mahamat has a more subtle approach but that does not implicitly mean he is less knowledgeable, less effective, or less passionate than the rest for the Africa We Want. Diplomacy is another animal. On his shoulder lies the task of channeling Common African Positions. It is always delicate in the global arena where Africa must not shrink while staking her grounds as we emerge from the ruins of the past and learn from those mistakes.

For example, at the Doha Forum on December 14-15, 2019, he said: "We do not ask for aid, we seek equal treatment. To ignore a continent that will account for half of the globe’s future growth, is suicidal. Africa is central for global prosperity, yet global rules are determined without it. How can we talk about global governance?"- H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

Should he have said: G7 people, including other neo colonialists gathered here today, you steal from Africa and you are undemocratic while talking about proper governance! That is unacceptable and where is the UN? Ah ha, that surely pumps adrenaline from black people at the ready for verbal combat? He would be a courageous leader?

On November, 23, 2019, the President of Botswana, Dr. Mokgweetsi E.K Masisi wrote: "Earlier today, I met with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) at Manong Game Lodge. Mahamat has been a pillar and intellectual foresight in the @_AfricanUnion since assuming the chairmanship of the commission in 2017."

So Dear Avid Reader, it is a matter of carrot vs stick, honey vs vinegar (approach) while the latent point is the same.

Diplomats do not do roforofo fight. You see, the other day, the recently former top American diplomat in Zambia started chirping about homosexual rights, veered to corruption, and the press opined that because the US gives Zambia $500,000 in aid, the donor has the audacity to interfere and dictate to a wimpish and beholden African nation - in other words. Rather than argue, Zambia had fewer words with "bestiality" and told America to take back its Ambassador. That happened. I chuckled when a reporter asked for my opinion. I said the world is watching TV on the impeachment - so it is matter of relative interest.

Africa is not with begging bowl to be dictated to as designed. This popular myth is being dismantled in ways that are not obvious. Yes, many rightly call for more assertiveness born of economic independence. Africa should choose her battles and with the support of her civil society. ECOWAS just demonstrated its muscles choosing its own ECO currency. It has been a journey of an old dream on a weary road; not a sudden awakening.

Perhaps, the reactions to my disinclination to throw an expected stone is understandable. Ordinarily, considering that I have been a victim of unsavory and exceptionally corrupt characters at the AU, past and present, with clear evidence to show (still have it at my disposal) and denied justice, as some reminded me, I should gleefully be in the row charging and insulting the AU and using my platforms to do so.

That is the easiest thing to do - vanity rationalizes it; and the bandwagon effect is inviting. After all, the AU Reform Report states that citizens do not trust the AU. Pile on.

But prudence and principle stand for something. I also know the AU has honest to goodness persons trying their best, faced with odds, but they believe in the Africa We Want. A bad experience should not commit one to blindness of rage. The AU Mission in Washington, DC has never been a dead place needing messianic resurrection. It may need more support - and again, leadership styles differ.

Primarily, AU Missions are bilateral and reciprocal representations. The relationship between the US and the AU should be peculiar due to the significant historical black population. The Mission should be one of immense pride as a symbol of their heritage with avenues discovery, constructive social and economic cooperation.

While there is no legal means for political involvement and representations of Historical Africa Diaspora individuals when such allowances are necessarily derived and protected by virtue of Membership in an AU Member State, opportunities for mutual social and economic uplift abound. There is no mystery. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is specific on Caribbean Diaspora on inherent rights.

Some African countries are welcoming Historical African Diaspora members with incentives for investments and earned residency or citizenship after living and contributing in the countries. It is progress to be encouraged. Ghana declared the Year of Return. More member States should copy best practice that seeks to heal the emotional wounds of slavery through practical connection of descendants of the enslaved to Africa.

But if insults and siege mentality are the flows from "Africa Diaspora" or whoever represents the groups, Africa has enough problems than to import more. It does not take much common sense to figure out that this will raise more doubts than promote cooperation with the civilian population. The bilateral relation will be mostly inter-governmental and the general population of the country. For example, the AU Legal Counsel Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding with American Bar Association; not black people.

For nationals from AU Member States or Continental Africans, AU Missions are extensions of what the AU is supposed to be doing and its purpose of integration. Nothing different. Member States' Embassies represent the Member States. The reciprocity among Member States applies to nationals in the Diaspora, including the African passport.

So there is no "African Diaspora" policy and development that anyone can be representing that the Ambassadors of the Member States are not involved since the duty of the Embassies include the welfare of nationals living abroad. Most Diaspora Offices are under the auspices of Foreign Ministers who are Members of the AU Executive Council. The Chairperson of the AU Commission reports to Heads of State and Government through the AU Executive Council. The AU Ambassadors to the Missions report to the Chairperson of the AU Commission through the Chief of Staff.

If there is no connection between Diaspora happenings in the Missions and Member States' Diaspora policies, the logic is, at best, elusive. Since the AU Commission does not make domestic decisions in Member States, how it is possible for any of its departments to organize Diaspora-based nationals of Member States? This is an irrationality with the proverbial elephant in the room. People know it does not work but ignore the impracticality.

I write from direct experience. The staff of the AU Mission in Washington, DC helped me in organizing the first and only AU ECOSOCC Diaspora Convention. The outcomes of the Convention is a record that stands as the most factual analysis of the Diaspora in its diversity, even the definition of African Diaspora, which is not used by Member States or any country in the world for formal application. Slice and dice it, it is just the truth.

Agenda 2063 is the road map for the Africa We Want. It begins at the Member State level and includes local jurisdictions. The Regional Economic Community is the building blocks of Africa's integration. It is no matter of fantasy. The reality is more sober and practical on the ground.

The Africa We Want does not come from AU officials and nobody creates a Diaspora population, which naturally emerges from distinctive patterns. In the classical Diaspora, the members carry out simultaneous activities - economically, socially, and politically - in their countries of residence and origin/ancestry. For the AU, some vote in their AU Member States' elections and referendums. The current Chairperson of the AU, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, knows that. In April 2019, Egyptian Diaspora voted in the referendum on Egypt's constitutional amendments.

Reliable data can be obtained from the Diaspora population; it is not abstract and conditional. Therefore, creating all sorts of things outside Africa with no mechanism that links them to local developments begs the question: what Diaspora?

The inescapable answer will determine the type of engagement because development is not a random act. Beyond remittances, Direct Diaspora Investments are enabled by Transnational entities and networks. Governments do not create the civil society groups; so AU officials cannot create them without crowding the civil space with their own biases and using/wasting tax payers' money for the pet projects.

Further, no Diaspora community in the world is its own territory that is detached from the countries or regions. For example, ECOWAS will only give its passports and biometric ID card to West Africans at home and abroad. Should ECOWAS Diaspora not be working with the ECOWAS Secretariat instead of fancying virtual landscapes in the minds and in external countries? You cannot ask them to go and build around Lake Limpopo as a rational mobilization of domestic resource. Ditto for other Diaspora residents from the regions in Africa. The Diaspora policy of Member States and the Regions are based on integrating of nationals in their National and Regional Development Frameworks.

It is time to come up with realistic cooperation with Historical African Diaspora civil society groups since integration is not feasible due to obvious legal and structural barriers. By the way, who has seen a Caribbean organization outside the Caribbean whose primary purpose is to develop Africa or a Caribbean country, South American, or US government promoting Agenda 2063? So it is also a matter of common sense.

It is not ignorance or small-mindedness to be realistic. It does not foreclose larger visions or stifle possibilities. It simply deals with the reality at hand.

By Evelyn Joe.

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