| Africans ‘slowly taking interest in continental affairs‘

Africans are becoming more aware of the importance of Africa Day, as they are slowly taking an interest in continental affairs, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has said.

In an interview with News24, ISS senior researcher, Liesl Louw, said that more people, especially in countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, were now more concerned about various issues affecting the continent.

She said that Africa Day was becoming even more popular among young people, and as a result, governments were also now taking strong measures on issues affecting the youth.

“Over the past couple of years, Africa Day has become popular among ordinary people on the continent. It is becoming more popular among South Africans as well, although the xenophobic attacks in 2008 and in the subsequent years impended progress,” said Louw.

Africa Day is observed annually on May 25. The day was set aside to commemorate the formation of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) – which is now known as the African Union (AU) – in 1963. 

Louw said that although there was progress on many fronts, the continent was still struggling on issues to do with the economy and strong democratic institutions.

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She said that fraud and corruption, in particular, hampered economic progress.

“We need to keep in mind that they are at least 55 countries that are represented at the African Union, and we must, therefore, understand that there is a constant battle taking place in Addis Ababa over some serious issues, especially those that have to do with democracy and change of term limits.

“Some leaders on the continent refuse to amend their constitutions to allow for democracy, therefore, the AU has to be led by consensus. The AU is not like the European Union which imposes its law on member countries,” said Louw.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, remained in .

The central African country has experienced a number of protests over the past two years, with the opposition demanding that Kabila step down.

Problematic countries

Kabila was supposed to have left office on December 19, 2016, but he still remained in office after it was agreed that the country‘s National Electoral Commission would not organise an election until later this year. 

South Sudan also remained another of the problematic countries. After gaining its independence from neighbouring Sudan in 2011, the east African country was plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 has failed, and clashes continue, killing tens of thousands of people and forcing millions to flee their homes.

In recent months, a number of other African countries that included Uganda, Burundi have changed their constitutions to allow their leaders to continue to rule.

“I think that the continental body has to be stronger and self-sufficient in order to enforce some of its decision across the board,” said Louw.

“There are some really worrisome developments that are emerging on the continent and the AU finds itself unable to do anything about them, as it has to find consensus on its decisions.”

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