Diasporas to form a political body?
“They decided to let immigrants in and I am an immigrant. They gave us a chance to participate in this country's life and I took it.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Former Dutch Politician (1969 - )
This is not the first time that I raise the subject of the African Union and the African Diasporas in my column. Since 2007 I have written the following articles in The African Bulletin:
“The African Union (AU) recognises and values its Diaspora” December 2007
“ADCC Holland moves ahead!” November 2008
“Counting on the elite, the AU and the African Diaspora” December 2009
“African Diaspora Project ‘ICT on Demand’ - Zadkine Spijkenisse responds” March 2010
To read these again simply go the African Bulletin website www.mediablackberry.com and go to archive to find the right year and month and you will see what you are looking for!
How did it start and what happened so far
You may not have time or patience to refer to the above articles, so I better give you a summary of how it started and where it has reached.
The African Union (AU) amended its constitution to include the African Diaspora and designated the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Africa (the other five regions are North, South, East, West and Central Africa). The AU mandated the South African Government, early 2007, to engage with the African Diaspora and find out what their role could be and how it could be organised. Hence, South African Embassies all over the world got busy organising the African Diaspora in various countries into an Africa Diaspora Community Council (ADCC). The ADCC established in the Netherlands held its consultative meeting with its representatives, from various ethnic and national backgrounds, and from all over the Netherlands in The Hague at the South African Embassy in August 2007, followed by a Regional Consultative meeting in Paris in September of the same year. In a follow-up meeting in The Hague three projects were proposed of which one “ICT-on-Demand” resulted in sending refurbished computers to schools in South Africa and Ghana. At the October 2009 meeting, the wider scope and link to other African Diaspora or Pan-African organizations worldwide was stressed and the name AUADS African Union African Diaspora Sub-region was introduced.
This was also when the LNCB-model (Leave No Community Behind) to sensitize the African Diaspora to the cause was introduced, but more about that, again, later.
What happened at this AUADS Round Table?
Welcome, opening, speeches and briefing:
The meeting, which took place at the South African Embassy, started with the introduction by the moderator Mrs Noye McComas of the host H.E. Ambassador Peter Goosen. He welcomed the audience and said that this meeting would set out the Roadmap to the Global African Diaspora Summit to be held on Africa Day 25th May in South Africa.
Mrs Drs. Barryl A. Biekman gave the opening address on behalf of the African Union African Diaspora 6th Region Facilitator Europe Region, Region Facilitators Working Group, Netherlands Chapter. This group was the organizer of the previous and African Diaspora Round Tables and also set up this 5th meeting. Mrs Biekman greeting the participants in an African family fashion recalled the LNCB-model (Leave No Community Behind) to engage all African Diasporas and select those to represent the African Diaspora in Europe. She told her audience that Global African Diaspora would become one Africa as ‘Africa listens to us and invites us join them’. She also mentioned the meeting she attended in Jericho, Israel for the African Diaspora in the Middle East, where she met the Israeli-Ethiopian Jews also called ‘falashas’ and learned how they were discriminated. She stressed the importance of this Round Table to determine the Roadmap to the Global African Diaspora Summit.
Her Excellency Mrs Professor Ruthie Chepkoech Rono Ambassador of Kenya as well as Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps in The Netherlands was also present. She confirmed earlier statements of the recognition of the value of the African Diaspora by the AU and mentioned that Kenya had also ratified a related act. She drew attention to the need to have regular consultations among the African Diaspora and recommended that a platform or a committee be set up to coordinate this.
The African Union Permanent Representative to the European Union, His Excellency Ambassador Ajay Kumar Brandeo gave a charged speech calling on those present ‘not only defend Africa, but also proactively advance what Africa stands for’. He stressed that ‘we are on our way of integrating the Diaspora, but once the Global Diaspora Summit was over we should continue to be intimately involved with each other’. He also mentioned the dangerous political swing to the right and implored his audience as Diaspora to throw a block vote for a progressive candidate or at least get involved in elections. He also referred the African Institute for Remittances (AIR).
Explanation Organization & Mobilizing Structure:
The meeting which took place under the slogan ‘Towards the realization of one integrated African Diaspora Family’ was to dedicate ample time to the organization structure.
On the program were:
Briefing State of the AU Developments & Roadmap towards the Global African Diaspora Summit & Decisions;
Presentation Draft Model Including Selection & Nomination Criteria for an ‘AUADS National Pan-African Community Parliament’, & ‘AUADS National Executive Community Council’;
Insertions of two items not on the agenda, but of relevant interest to the participants were:
Antumi Toasijé, historian, and President of the Pan-African Centre in Madrid, Spain enlightened the audience on the plight of the Spanish speaking Diaspora. www.wanafrika.org
Pastor Larry Omodia introduced AFTV or African Television which is to show the beauty of Africa and pull viewers away commercial sponsored western TV-series. AFTV had recently been launched on satellite TV and was negotiating for cable contracts. www.af-tv.com
Working Group sessions:
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the moderator, time-overrun of programs above left little time for the working group sessions. Moreover the groups were ill-prepared to discuss the National Pan-African Community Parliament or the National Executive Community Council. The draft model, a long list of proposed rules and regulations, had been read out in the plenary meeting but not provided on paper and could therefore not be referred to in the working groups. Moreover some wondered why a new organization had to be created as they remembered the ADCC (African Diaspora Community Council) being set up as a representative body for the African Diaspora.
Plenary Reporting, Discussion & Decision on Organization & Mobilizing Structure:
Unfortunately, in my opinion, no concrete results short of, we need more time to talk about this, could be reported or decisions reached. The participants were told that there would be another meeting to complete the work on the Roadmap towards the Global Diaspora Summit. Concerning the ADCC the AUADS facilitator explained that the African Diaspora Round Table was the more important level. Kenneth Robinson Chair of the ADCC arrived during the working group sessions and declared that he came to bring unity.
Unity became a rallying cry to various other speakers and the Round Table was brought to a close with the conclusion ‘We need a political and executive body and an ideology to represent the African Diaspora!’
Is there really a broad genuine interest in the AU or Pan-African issues among the African Diaspora?
Having found oneself in the Diaspora, one first worries being able to stay, next about food and shelter, then to send money home to the family, before considering doing something for one’s village. Dedicating oneself to Africa’s development comes after investing in one’s country including building a house at home. Then again many remain in one of the earlier stages and are too busy with their life and following what happens in their home country to consider the AU or Pan-African issues.
The implementation of the LNCB-model (Leave No Community Behind) to sensitize the African Diaspora leaves much to be desired. Though there were some participants who had attended these AUADS Round Tables from the beginning, there were many new to the process.
The African Diasporas in the Netherlands are very diversely organized and some not at all. There are various associations and foundation based on national, ethnic and religious (churches) affiliation, which are not always known to their respective embassies. In my experience, because I work and associate closely with them, most members of those bodies have never heard of the AUADS Round Table meetings and are therefore really communities left behind. It is however not too late to start a concerted campaign to create awareness among all African Diasporas!
“It is up to African leaders to show their will and political courage in order to assure that this new Pan-African institution (AU) becomes an efficient instrument and not a place for endless discussions.”
Omar Bongo, Late President of Gabon (30 December 1935 – 8 June 2009)
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org