The 27th African Union Summit begins in Kigali tomorrow with a bold statement of where it is headed to actualise the AU vision, which is towards “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”
The bold statement is that African Heads of State coming to the summit will be piloting the new electronic African Union passport.
This may seem internationally dissonant, especially with the world still smarting from the fallout of Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and the lessons we are gleaning of a “seamless borders” such as the EU project has pioneered.
Yet the African Union project, as articulated in its vision, is something that must be undertaken. The AU explains that “the specific aim [of the passport] is facilitating free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent – in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.”
This drive towards a continent without borders cannot be faulted, even by the sceptics who pose that a borderless Africa would be challenging due to militant groups such as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram, as well as public health crises such as Ebola.
The truth is the AU has not been perfect in finding “African solutions for African problems”.
As such, the set date is 2018 to abolish the need for Africans visiting countries on the continent to require a visa.
We should hold the AU and our local policymakers to this promise.
The fact is that it is doable. Already, the Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius and Ghana have looser travel restrictions for Africans.
It would be more than apt to say that free travel across the continent should be a right, especially in the shadow of this being the AU’s year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women.
This brings in the other point about the summit, which is the recognition that women in Africa continue to be amongst the most downtrodden in our communities.
The 3rd AU High Level Panel (HLP) on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment will be concluding its deliberations at the margins today under the theme “The Contributions of Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights in Transforming Gender Roles in Africa: Stocktaking, Opportunities and Accountability”.
The Maputo Protocol, which entered into force 13 years ago, is a landmark legal instrument that aims to protect all rights of women, including from any form of discrimination and violence.
But some have questioned whether it has done much to safeguard the rights of women. The HLP’s theme is self explanatory, to which it should not only affirm the Maputo Protocol, but deeply interrogate African countries’ commitment to allow women all rights due to them.
It should be expected that clear recommendations will come out of it on how to accelerate the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol, and which will be submitted for adoption by the 27th AU Summit.
Many of us have read or heard about the horrors people living with albinism endure in much of the content. It speaks for many who live with disabilities, especially women, of whom I’ll quote a forthright demand as dramatically articulated in one press release to the summit:
“My brothers and sisters I am an African woman. I have lighter than usual hair and skin and very beautiful bright eyes. You continue to believe that my body can heal you from HIV/AIDS and bring wealth to you. That’s a fallacy! My body belongs to me and please let me enjoy a life free from fear of being hunted down to satisfy your unfounded beliefs and crimes. I am just like you and if you let me be I will continue to contribute to the prosperity of my continent in all respects. Africa, please come together to empower me and make my life more comfortable by defeating the myths which surround albinism and investing in science and technology for solutions that support the fulfillment of my dreams and aspirations towards the Africa We Want”.