Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

The Irrelevance of the African Union at 50

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The U.S. military grip on Africa ensures that the continent will not achieve any of Nkrumah’s pan-African objectives.”

The African Union marked its 50th anniversary, this week, at an executive council meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – the city where the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, was born in 1963. Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah was the guiding intellect of pan-Africanism in those days. He envisioned a continent unified by a common market, currency and central bank, common citizenship, a common foreign policy and system of military defense – a kind of United States of Africa. A half century later, the United States effectively lords it over Africa to a degree unmatched by any single European power of the colonial period.

Africa is most unified in its abject military subservience to the U.S. and, secondarily, to France, which struts around Mali, Niger, the Central African Republic and other former colonies as if independence was a joke played on history. But, the big boss is AFRICOM, the U.S. military command established in 2008, whose barbed wire entangles the continent, linking the militaries of all but three African countries directly to the Pentagon.

The U.S. military grip on Africa ensures that the continent will not achieve any of Nkrumah’s pan-African objectives. It is the American trump card, that renders this week’s proclamations out of Ethiopia fatuous and empty. The African Union chairperson presented a draft proclamation of a continental agenda for the next 50 years – Agenda 2063 – that is to be adopted next January. It speaks to African “peace and security” and “self-reliance” – an impossibility so long as the U.S. superpower dictates the terms of war and peace, and while virtually every African head of state serves at the pleasure of the Americans, who are closer to his generals than he is.

The African Union’s opinion is irrelevant.”

The 50-year agenda celebrates social and economic development and continental integration. But Africa’s regional economic groupings have largely been converted into blocs for easy political manipulation by the Americans and their European junior imperial partners. In the Horn of Africa, IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, has been entirely subordinated to the Americans and their war to subdue Somalia and threaten tiny, independent-minded Eritrea. The African Union’s so-called peace-keeping mission in Somalia, the AU’s biggest military project, is entirely financed, armed, trained and directed by the Europeans and Americans, most notably the CIA. On the other side of the continent, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is thoroughly enmeshed in the French-American war machines that have invaded the region. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations is putting together an offensive brigade sponsored by the United States and France, that will surely serve imperialism’s interests in the region.

The African Union’s opinion is irrelevant, just as it was irrelevant when the U.S. and its NATO allies decided on regime change in Libya, in 2011. Muammar Gaddafi, a former AU president and bankroller was overthrown and murdered, and the AU did nothing. And yet, it speaks of a 50-year plan for an African renaissance, and claims the pan-African vision guides its deliberations.

Nevertheless, I’m sure Kwame Nkrumah would agree that the AU has been quite useful – just not useful to Africans.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130529_gf_AfricanUnion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am EDT

Saving Detroit’s Art Treasures – While the Rest of the City is Picked Clean

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Rather than make common cause with the victims, whose house is being pillaged, the patrons of the ‘high arts’ want only to remove certain items.”

Elements of Michigan’s upper class are finally showing concern for the plight of Detroit, its largest city, locked in the deadly embrace of a state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager. No, the one percent aren’t upset that the city’s residents have been stripped of their democratic rights, reduced to non-citizens with literally no control over their local institutions and resources. Most of the upper crust consider the disenfranchisement of Detroit and fully half of the state’s Black population to be more of a blessing than a tragedy, much less a crime. Rather, the Emergency Manager has rattled the sophisticated gentry by appearing to covet the precious works housed in the Detroit Institute of Art, which could be valued at a billion dollars.

Wait a minute, say the high-priced art aficionados. Selling off the nuts and bolts assets of a great metropolis full of Black and poor people is one thing, but don’t you dare go after our van Gogh. You can steal the pensions of tens of thousands of retirees, and tear up every union contract in Detroit, but don’t even think about taking away my Monet!

It doesn’t matter to the privileged classes that the soulful city that produced the Motown sound – an exquisite form of art – is about to be gutted to satisfy the greed of capitalist creditors. After all, the Motown sound was produced by people from the streets, while the works of Picasso and Matisse are prized by the folks from the suites, and must be saved for future generations of that class. The very idea that masterpieces of Euro-American high culture might be thrown into the mix of expendable items like public water systems, voting rights, a living wage, and security in ones old age – why, its enough to make a connoisseur of the arts launch a revolt against the rule of Capital.

Sell the people, and their rights, but not the paintings!”

Well, not quite. Patrons of the arts have mobilized, not to free Detroit from the bankers’ yoke, but to find ways to separate the city’s artistic assets from the kind of assets that most people depend upon in their daily lives. Rather than demanding that Financial Manager Kevyn Orr and his vultures respect the citizenship rights of 82 percent Black Detroit, they’re seeking legal loopholes to keep the Institute of Art off the auction block. By all means, sell the people, and their rights, but not the paintings!

Of course, this is a false choice. A crime is being perpetuated against the people of Detroit, robbing them of the their rights as workers, pension holders, students, citizens and human beings. Rather than make common cause with the victims, whose house is being pillaged, the patrons of the “high arts” want only to remove certain items, and then run right out the door again, allowing the criminals to continue their thievery.

It probably does not even occur to the self-styled art lovers that, by attempting to separate the Institute of Art from the city of Detroit, they are also thieves. It is like slipping the wristwatch from the arm of a drowning man, rather than rescuing him, and then bragging about having preserved a fine piece of craftsmanship.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130529_gf_Detroit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am EDT