United States of Africa: one main or official language(?)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jul 10 14:02:39 UTC 2007

United States of Africa

Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
9 July 2007
Posted to the web 9 July 2007

By I. K. Gyasi

IF WE have a United States of America (USA), then why not a United
States of Africa?
One Central Government, one President, one currency, one main or
official language, one passport, one judicial system, one nationality,
one main capital- the advantages are endless. Indeed, there is
everything to be said for a more effective and meaningful union of
Africa . However, while a United States of Africa is a dream worth
realizing, we should not gloss over the problems we have to consider
and solve before we can realize that dream.

The first major consideration is what to do with our respective
sovereignties. The present United States of America did not start with
independent countries each with its own President. It is obvious that,
if we are going to have a proper Union Government of Africa ,
something has to be done about the question of sovereignty.

In the interest of realizing the big dream, African countries will
definitely have to give up their sovereignty. Will they be prepared to
do that?

What will happen to the sitting Presidents? Will they be chosen as
Governors? In any case, will the names of the respective countries be
retained with the old boundaries? We must certainly think carefully
about how to handle the sovereignty question.

Next to be carefully considered is a Constitution for the envisaged
United States of Africa. It goes without saying that we will need a
Constitution which will be the basic law of the new nation. But what
kind of Constitution?

America has a federal Constitution. Under that Constitution, there is
a Central Government with a Presidency in charge of a foreign policy
and internal security. The conduct of war is a preserve of the Federal
Government. Only the federal Government can issue and control the
currency. There is a Federal Supreme Court whose judgments have power
over all the land.

Different states have their own police force, bars of lawyers and
courts that go all the way to the State Supreme Courts. As a result,
for example, a lawyer licensed by one state cannot practice in another
state Bar of the "alien" state. In the same way, a policeman in one
State, say California, is not a policeman in, say, New York. But of
course, there is a Federal institution like Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI).

Are we going to have a Unitary Constitution such as is practiced in
Britain? Will the present states of Africa be turned into States
within a Federal system of regions in a Unitary system? Are we going
to have a system in which the states or regions have more power than
the Central Government, as in a Confederal system?

Right here in Ghana we have several indigenous languages but, by
accident of colonial rule, English has become our official language,
notwithstanding the fact that not every Ghanaian speaks or understands
English. Across Africa, apart from the hundreds of indigenous
languages, there are also such "alien" languages as English, French,
Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic. Swahili, largely developed in East
Africa, is spoken in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. When we achieve the
unity we desire, what language or languages will we use? Will we go
the way of Switzerland which has French, German and Italian or shall
we choose only one language as the official language?

Whether we choose one language or two or three, the question of the
ability to speak, write, read and understand the language or languages
will arise. Of course, even in a thousand years, not every citizen of
the United States of Africa will be able to know the language or
languages. Still, teaching citizens to know the language or languages
will be necessary. It will be a big task getting teachers to teach the
chosen language or languages in schools.

How will the President of the United States of Africa be chosen? By
consensus by the African Parliament? By universal adult suffrage in
which political parties play a major role? If so, how many political
parties? Two, three or four? What about the choice of Ministers? Will
one of the cities in Africa be chosen as the national capital or will
a new capital be carved out somewhere?

A Central bank will have to be created to issue one currency for he
proposed United States of Africa. What will the currency be called? In
how many denominations will the currency be issued? What will its
value be in terms of such currencies as the American dollar, the Swiss
franc or the European euro? What steps will be taken to ensure that
there will be no massive counterfeiting? How will the Governor of the
Central bank be chosen?

What kind of economic system will the proposed United States of Africa
adopt? Will it be the capitalist system or the socialist system or
some other systems?

It is admitted that, today, there is nothing like unadulterated
capitalism or unadulterated socialism. Socialists ideas, condemned
many years ago, have come to influence capitalist countries like the
United States and Britain have adopted socialist ideas in the
provision of welfare services to citizens and even foreign residents.

On the other hand, a country like the People's Republic of China has
introduced capitalist ideas even though the political system remains
basically communist, with the Communist Party in tight control.
Whichever system will be adopted will have to ensure fair and
equitable economic development of the whole continent.

Not to be overlooked is a judicial system that will safeguard the rule
of law, human rights and the equitable dispensation of justice.

Will we adopt the British and Commonwealth system in which an accused
person is presumed innocent until proven guilty or the French system
in which people are trained to be judges and remain judges all their
lives? Will lawyers be licensed to practice only in specific states or

These are some of the matters agitating my layman's mind. I am sure
that better minds than mine are tackling the issue of a United States
of Africa with utmost seriousness and better informed judgments.

Whatever it is, it is agreed that hard questions must be asked and
answered. We should not be pessimistic about our chances of uniting.
We should not think that certain leaders have ambitions of becoming
the future president of Africa, hence their apparent show of
over-enthusiasm, just as Kwame Nkrumah was suspected of trying to be
president at the time the OAU was formed.

On the other hand, we should not allow our enthusiasm to overcome the
realities on the ground. There are difficulties. But we should work
towards overcoming them instead of allowing those difficulties to
hamstring our efforts at achieving unity. Long live the United States
of Africa.

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