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Saturday, 28 May 2016
AFRICAN UNION SAYS HAITI NOT AFRICAN ENOUGH TO HAVE MEMBERSHIP
Welp, it looks like that dream some of us have of uniting all of the Black nations under one cultural, socioeconomic and political agenda might have to wait a while longer.
What am I talking about?
Specifically, how two weeks ago, Black folks from across the diaspora celebrated reports that the small island nation would possibly be inducted as the 55th country to join the African Union. For those unaware, Haiti has been an “observing” member of the Union since 2012. The AU was founded in 2002 to “achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa,” among other objectives. Currently, the AU is led by the President of Chad, Idriss Déby.
Apparently, this historic announcement was made on South African Broadcasting Company News where Jacques Junior Baril, the Haitian ambassador to South Africa, appeared and said it’s about time Haiti was admitted into the Union.
“Well, I mean, I think it is very important to understand the basics of it. I don’t think we decide. I think it is a place that we are entitled to. I think it is a place that we earned after we fought for our independence 212 years ago. We kind of paved the way for every other African nations to be free today. So historically speaking, Haiti actually should have already been in the A.U. already. So we are glad that it is happening now. We are very happy that everybody came to the understanding that our place is right there with everybody else from the continent and A.U.”
It’s a sentiment widely shared by much of the diaspora. And as previously reported by the website Face 2 Face Africa, “Just like NATO or the OECD, some of the more influential communities of nation states around the world form their membership purely out of shared interests or a common ideology. The AU is hopefully moving in that direction.”
Great news, right?
But there’s just one little snag. Apparently, membership wasn’t granted after all.
In a statement released just a day after news began to circulate around social media, the AU Commission said they only allow “African States” to join the Union.
The African Union Commission informs the public that Haiti will not be admitted as a Member State of the African Union (AU) at its next Summit to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, as erroneously reported by several media outlets.
According to Article 29.1 of the AU’s Constitutive Act, only African States can join the African Union.
Given the importance that the AU accords to the African Diaspora, it has developed strong cooperation with sister States in the Caribbean region and citizens of African descent around the world.
The AU was pleased to welcome Haiti’s President Michel Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to its Summits in the past as Special Guests, and the AU had a high level delegation at the celebrations of the 200th Anniversary of Haiti in Port-au-Prince, in 2004.
The press release goes on to state that while Haiti does not qualify under current rules regarding proximity, the country might be able to join its proposed “sixth region” of Africa, which has the responsibility to “facilitate direct peoples’ involvement through Civil Society Organisations from Africa or the Africa Diaspora that wish to interact with the African Union.”
Of course, that sixth region has yet to be recognized (ratified) by the Commission and there is no telling when – and if – that will ever happen.
Still, this story, while erroneous, does reignite questions about what role, if any, the diaspora should and can play in the coming together of the African agenda.
It should be mentioned that some nations have started to address that question, including Ghana, which in 2000 became the first African nation to pass the Right of Abode law. Under the law, anyone of African descent can apply for the right to stay in Ghana indefinitely. And according to the UN, there have been around 3,000 African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans who have repatriated to the West African nation since 2004.
Personally, I would love to see this connection happen. I know that the diaspora is wide and culturally vast. However, there are socioeconomic and political benefits to coming together. For example, some African countries could benefit from the wealth of knowledge and Western connections of its non-continental brothers and sisters (this is particularly important when so many of the continent’s more educated inhabitants continue to leave), while the diaspora could benefit from having a place to run to when the Western world gets to be too much.
The problem is, how do you structurally welcome a nation of people who technically have no sovereignty or boundaries?