Africa’s integration unstoppable -Thabo Mbeki

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has said Africa will not wait for every country on the continent to sort out its problems before considering to integrate.

Mbeki, the head of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on the Horn of Africa (AUHIP), said: “We cannot suspend the move towards African integration to first solve small issues in every country.”

 He made the remarks on Wednesday during a press conference held in Kampala at the end of the panel’s two-day consultation with the Government of Uganda on how to handle the integration of the Horn of Africa.

Mbeki was reacting to a question raised by a journalist, who wanted to know whether it is feasible for the countries in the Horn of Africa to integrate when almost each of them is struggling with internal problems, such as wars, poverty, and political divisions.

He said: “South Africa is preoccupied with corruption issues, but you cannot say ‘let us stop pursuing the African integration to solve the problem; we can handle the two simultaneously.”

Mbeki also noted that the move to unite Africa is as old as the time when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963 and, therefore, cannot stop because countries have internal issues. The integration of the Horn of Africa countries is seen as a building block towards the integration of Africa.

Mbeki revealed that the panel had agreed to draw lessons from the ongoing process of integrating the East African Community (EAC) states in the push for the integration of the Horn of Africa. The integration of the Horn of Africa was agreed upon by African heads of state in 2013 and is supported by the United Nations in a bid to achieve economic, security and political integration.

Mbeki further revealed that the panel is working towards silencing guns in the region by 2020. The countries with roaring guns in the Horn of Africa include South Sudan, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Mbeki met with President Yoweri Museveni, the Speaker of Parliament, foreign affairs committee of Parliament and the business community to draw their views on how the integration could be implemented.

He told journalists that the intention of consulting the different sections of Ugandans, including MPs, like in other countries, was to ensure that the critical views of the masses are considered in the final report. Mbeki’s panel is expected to produce a detailed report on their consultations as soon as they are done with the task.

He, however, noted that their work could be delayed by conflicts in countries like Sudan, where he said they must wait until a power-sharing deal is reached between the army and civilians for consultations to take place. The scarcity of resources to facilitate the panel’s work and the availability of the presidents of the different countries for consultations could also stand in the process of fast-tracking the integration.

Prior to visiting Uganda, Mbeki’s panel held similar consultations in Somalia and Kenya and also met with the African Union chairperson, President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil El-Sisi in Egypt, who they said supports the idea. Mbeki was accompanied to the press conference by Ambassador Mohamed Guyo, IGAD’s Special Envoy for Somalia, Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as Pauline Onunga Adero from the UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Horn of Africa