‘New growth on deep roots’ – Pan-African precedents for the African Union

Sturman, Kathryn (2007). ‘New growth on deep roots’ – Pan-African precedents for the African Union. In: 2nd European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Leiden, Netherlands, (). 11-14 July 2007.

Author Sturman, Kathryn
Title of paper ‘New growth on deep roots’ – Pan-African precedents for the African Union
Conference name 2nd European Conference on African Studies (ECAS)
Conference location Leiden, Netherlands
Conference dates 11-14 July 2007
Place of Publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher African Studies in Europe (AEGIS)
Publication Year 2007
Sub-type Published abstract
Language eng
Abstract/Summary Launched as a departure from the OAU’s image as a ‘trade union of the powerful’ [Van Walraven, 1999:313], the African Union (AU) has moved into the realm of intervention and regional human rights enforcement. Yet the OAU norms of non-interference and state sovereignty have not simply been replaced by new, ‘universal’ norms of international human rights law and humanitarian intervention. This paper explores the contestation of norms of state sovereignty and non-interference versus human rights and ‘African-led’ peacekeeping in the OAU since 1963. It contextualizes recent developments in the AU as a revival of the original Pan-Africanist blueprint for stronger regionalisation, for an ‘African Army’ and other supranational institutions. The vision outlined by Nkrumah, Nyerere and Selassie, at the founding summit of the OAU, was echoed by Mbeki, Obasanjo and Ghaddafi in their efforts to reform the organisation in 1999. This suggests the realization of an African-owned regionalism - Nyerere’s ‘new growth on the deep roots of our life’ [‘A United States of Africa’, in Journal of Modern African Studies, 1(1), 1963]. Pan-Africanism was never the dominant discourse, however. It was a minority view, outweighed by the conservative Brazzaville states and the pervasive Nationalism of the 1960s, and rejected by a growing number of dictators in the 1970s. It may be described as a ‘counter-hegemonic’ discourse, competing with African Nationalism within the OAU. Evidence is provided in an analysis of OAU/AU documents from 1963-2006, focusing on the evolution of the African Charter and Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, and on regional mechanisms for conflict resolution. Constructivism is applied to consider how and why norms of sovereignty and non-interference have changed within the AU. In particular, Amitav Acharya’s critique of previous scholarship on normative change is used to argue that a process of ‘norm localisation’ is taking place within the regional organisation. Acharya challenges theory that places ‘universal’ norms, such as the promotion of human rights or intervention to prevent genocide, at odds with local, parochial norms. This view of changing local norms is one of ‘teaching by transnational agents, thereby downplaying the agency role of local actors’ [Acharya, 2004: 242]. ‘Localisation’ of norms involves a more radical change within a regional organisation, which depends on (1) ‘local initiative’ and availability of local/ insider proponents (and not just outsider norm entrepreneurs); and (2) the existence of a prior receptive norm onto which the new norms may be ‘grafted’ [Acharya, 2005:18]. The paper questions, first, whether Pan-Africanism may be considered such a ‘prior receptive norm’ for humanitarian intervention and human rights enforcement within the AU. Second, it traces the role of local ‘norm entrepreneurs’, namely local NGOs and other civil society organizations, in reforming the AU in recent years. This includes the involvement of local and transnational human rights NGOs in the establishment of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights; formal meetings and forums between civil society groups and the AU Commission; and informal ‘Track 2’ diplomacy between the AU institutions and African epistemic communities.
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ
Additional Notes Paper ID: 26. Panel 25: Regionalisation in Africa: Old Gamble or New Reality?

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining Publications
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Created: Thu, 22 Nov 2012, 16:37:57 EST by Kathryn Sturman on behalf of Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining