Mr Emmanuel Bombande, a Senior United Nations Mediation Advisor in Central Africa, says the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the imperative for African countries to collaborate and integrate their systems to confront their challenges from a stronger common platform.
“This is because when we refuse to cooperate as a people and as member states of the AU, we pay the price of completely subjecting ourselves to our own incapacities; and not what other people have made us to be, he explained in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
From the start, he said, the countries should have coordinated their responses continentally so they would have resonated with that of their neighbouring countries, especially because of the many porous borders.
“The countries, could in particular, have coordinated on how to close their borders simultaneously, how long they should close, and also how to coordinate their aviation sectors so that the individual countries would have seen their efforts coordinated, and sent “a message of power and ownership of Africans capable of formulating polices and doing things together,” Mr Bombande said.
“This would also have helped to prevent the infiltration of people from neighbouring countries”.
The GNA’s interview was to seek the renowned peace mediator’s perspectives on how to make the African Union more relevant in confronting the continent’s challenges today, as Ghana joins to commemorate the African Union Day, on Monday, May 25.
The theme for celebration, which being observed virtually in many of the countries to contain the spread of COVID-19 is: “Silencing The Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development and Intensifying the Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Mr Bombande stated: “I’m reemphasising that the aspirations of the African people have not changed and that this is not whether or not we have been able to journey to the point of total satisfaction; but the fact that our quest to seek the freedom and equality of the African people, the dignity of the African people, and justice for all, have not changed.
“Therefore, as the continent marks it day, there is the need to remind ourselves of the responsibility and obligations on all the peoples and of our governments to continue to work towards the aspirations that we have set for ourselves”.
Mr Bombande, also a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, recounted that the Organisation of African Unity, from 1963 to 1999, was the first-post independent continental institution to be set up, making it an important entity established by Africans themselves.
“It is a manifestation of our Pan-African vision for unity and for freedom and for the control of our own destiny,” he emphasised.
Mr Bombande said it was, nonetheless, helpful that individually the countries responded swiftly to the COVID-19 outbreak with some laudable containment measures, though, some of the responses were not the best across board.
“What we are saying is that at least the countries immediately put in measures that will deal with the pandemic”.
The pandemic, he noted, would seriously impact and threaten the progress of the continent, which prior to the outbreak, was experiencing the fastest growth rate in the world.
“There is also the potential of aggravating long standing inequalities between the very poor and the rich,” he said, explaining that more people would go into poverty because of the loss of jobs, unfavourable settlement patterns and food insecurity.
These would heighten hunger and malnutrition among children, as well as the vulnerability of other diseases.
“And that is why we need to coordinate things together as a continent, more than just each African country trying to respond, he said, adding that as the pandemic continued to impact on the continent, it would elicit the requisite coordination.
Mr Bombande said it was encouraging that the Chair of the AU, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, had been showing leadership in coordinating efforts by setting up a mobilisation team that would look at the impact of COVID-19 on Africa, and how to use an integrated approach to beat it.
The AU Day, marked annually, presents an avenue to celebrate some landmark achievements of the Union on issues, such as peace and security, continental integration, women and youth empowerment, and eradication of diseases.
It is also to reflect on the Union’s transformation and achievements and also renew commitments towards the realisation of sustainable development, as embedded in its Agenda 2063.