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Sunday 8 November 2015

Onyeani: Diaspora Africans Need Two Ambassadors in Washington

Onyeani: Diaspora Africans Need Two Ambassadors in Washington
Dr. Chika Onyeani,

Author and Publisher of New York based newspaper African Sun Times, Dr. Chika Onyeani, recently wrote to the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, on why an African Diaspora ambassador should be appointed from the rank of Diaspora citizens  in addition to the AU ambassador to Washington DC. Onyeani, who is visible on issues affecting Diaspora Africans, spoke with Nduka Nwosu on the broad details of his letter.

What is the idea behind your recent letter, the second in the series, to the chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC) Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?

The letter to the AUC chairman Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is prompted by the fact that there is a vacant position following the recall of Ambassador Amina Salum Ali who spent over eight years in that capacity when the African Union Permanent Mission was opened in Washington on April 13 2007.  It is only natural to assume the vacant stool needs to be replaced and hence my suggestions based on the very broad yearnings of Africans in the Diaspora. We were proud when Secretary-General of the African Union Alpha Oumar Konare designated   Ambassador Ali presented her papers to DC where she presented her papers to then President George W. Bush.  America prided itself on being the first major international country to open a separate diplomatic office directly with the African Union.

What was the vision of the founding fathers of the AU?
Apart from its bilateral relations with the United States, the African Union mission to the United States was envisioned to be a hub for coalescing the largest black population outside Africa (the African Diaspora in America), until more Brazilians began to identify as Africans in this decade.

Despite the more than eight years of existence of the African Union office in Washington, DC., I can say without fear of contradiction that most Americans, well specifically the African Diaspora, hardly know anything about the African Union, let alone that the organisation has an office in Washington, DC.  We cannot totally blame the disconnect between Africa and its largest Diaspora group on the ineffectiveness of the office that had been established to do that. With the worsening of relationships, it had been anticipated that the Global African Diaspora Summit in 2012, would be the catalyst in changing that relationship.

The South African government spared no expense in bringing thousands of people of African descent from different parts of the world to Pretoria and Johannesburg.  This summit of all summits, (as there had been too many already) was the venue whereby Africans would welcome their children they had allowed to be abducted into the harsh abuse and indignities of slavery.  There was a great enthusiasm about the future of Africa and its Diaspora.  There was going to be a mending of fences.  Africa would keep its promises to the Diaspora, especially like the creation and recognition of the Diaspora as the 6th Region of Africa. The recognition would put the Diaspora at par with the other five regions in Africa, except of course we would not have Heads of State.

  The election of Dlamini-Zuma as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (which used to be known as the Secretariat) became an added bonus.  We cheered uproariously that a new sheriff had come into town. There has been a lot of inconclusive arguments as to whether a report of the proceedings of the Global African Diaspora Summit was ever written, though many meetings have been held relating to the decisions emanating from the Summit, especially the Legacy Projects.

These were projects that were supposed to be presented to the Diaspora for consideration and approval, but which, when they were presented to the Diaspora, we found that decisions had already been made as to the organizations and individuals who would be doing the implementation.  In effect, the Diaspora was only needed to rubber-stamp the selections already made.

What was the idea behind the Agenda 2063 document?
In early 2013, the chairman penned a brilliant document titled “Agenda 2063”.  I thought it was the most encompassing document that would propel Africa forward to taking its place as a giant in the comity of nations.  That was why when I got the document from the chairman’s Senior Adviser Ambassador Febe and didn’t see anybody talking about it or circulating it, I decided to write about it.  Not satisfied with the response, I decided to organize an International Telephone Conference on “Agenda 2063.”  Appropriately, the AUC contacted me after news of the conference exploded on the internet.  They informed me that the chairman might wish to participate in the tele-conference which she did, though unfortunately we didn’t know when she called in and so was not given the opportunity to speak to the group.  Due to this, we decided to organize another TeleConference which would strictly be provided as a platform for her to discuss the agenda and answer questions.  Both events were quite successful.

What was the follow up to Agenda 2063?
After this, and with the success of the two events, we had assembled a group of highly placed African Diaspora individuals who were quite enthusiastic in pushing “Agenda 2063” to greater heights and implementation.  We expected that the chairman’s office would run with the project and push us with enthusiasm to carry on.  But unfortunately, like most things from the African Union, the idea was left moribund –  in fact, her Washington DC office pretended they never heard of our teleconference or “Agenda 2063.”  I did remind the chairman that it would be boring to do a rehash of what most Africans in the Diaspora would consider an abysmal record of relationship between Africa and the Diaspora.  The idea behind the letter is for the chairman to consider using the appointment of a new African Union Ambassador to the U.S. in remedying this situation.

You are advocating for the appointment of two ambassadors for the AU in Washington DC, why?
Yes and my first suggestion is that the African Union must have two Ambassadors accredited to Washington, DC – one from Africa and the other from the Diaspora.  The problem of the failure of that office has been the confusion between its duties to relate to the U.S. government, which it had assumed as its primary duties, rather than its relationship with the Diaspora, which should be its primary duties.  By creating two ambassadorships, this confusion would be eradicated. I know the position of the African Union Ambassador to the United States is a plum position, which a lot of African countries would want one of its citizens to be the representative.

  With the appointment of two ambassadors, rewarding a member country would continue to be the norm but a fear that the position might be diluted would not happen because their duties would be totally demarcated.  The function would be relationship with the U.S. government including ensuring more trading opportunities between the U.S. and Africa, and of course, fighting terrorism in the continent.

What will be the assignment and designation of the second ambassador?
The other ambassador, to be known and called African Union Diaspora Ambassador, should be an African-American, preferably a former U.S. Ambassador to an African country or an African-American who has lived and worked in Africa.  He must have all the rights and privileges of an Ambassador, including accreditation.  Such an individual would have great insight of both worlds.  They are the ones wearing the shoes; they know where the shoes pinch.  The individual appointed must focus on increasing the knowledge of and participation of the African Diaspora in African affairs.

Their most important duty would be constant outreach to the African Diaspora community all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as the other Americas.  The Ambassador’s duties would be the dissemination and implementation of the decisions already taken, including the five Legacy Projects and the “Agenda 2063.  Decisions already made need to be implemented, not new ones.  He should ensure that he brings the disparate groups of organizations that are working very hard in supporting Africa, but have been wracked by divisions and need to project dominance.

Who will fund the secretariat and other running costs supporting such a diplomatic posting?
The funding of the African Union Diaspora Ambassador should not be allowed to be a burden on the African Union, but should be borne by the Diaspora.  A projected budget for five years should be the minimum, and unless the Diaspora could quickly raise the fund, the position would be left vacant until such a time as the Diaspora is ready to fund the position.

How well disposed is the chairperson to your contributions?
She definitely must be well disposed to the contents of the letter. I reminded her this should not be viewed   as an encroachment on her decision making abilities.  Time is of the essence, and the Diaspora needs to be more involved in making Africa’s future a successful one which includes effective participation, especially in the economic sector where they have been virtually shut out by the Europeans and Asians.

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, whom she mentioned in her “Agenda 2063” document, must always be in our mind. Nkrumah told us that “We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle for emancipate other countries in Africa, for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”  Yes, that is what more economic participation of the African continent, championed by the African Union, would do for the future of the black race and that precisely is the anchor point of my letter to the AUC chairperson.

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