Friday, August 17, 2007

Mobilise for regional integration

Mobilise for regional integration
By Editor
Thursday August 16, 2007 [04:01]

If the Europeans can unite and achieve such a high level of integration, why shouldn't we? We Africans, especially from our region - the southern African region, have more things in common than the Europeans. For centuries until not long ago, they were warring against each other. There was one war that they called the Hundred Years' War, and wars of every kind - religious, national, ethnic wars. Those who know a bit of history know this only too well.

The Europeans have transcended all that because they have become aware of the importance of unity. It must be said, really, that the Europeans - their politicians in general - became conscious of the need to unite and integrate, and for over 50 years they have been working to that end. We have hardly even started.

We do appreciate that the United Nations Charter and the principles of sovereignty are absolutely indispensable and crucial for the vast majority of peoples in the world, especially for the smallest and weakest who are still not integrated into any strong supra-national grouping in the current stage of extraordinarily uneven political, economic and social development of the human community.
When we are all integrated in a Southern African community, our concept of sovereignty will be different. We will have to give up a lot of those principles to obey the laws and the administration or the decisions of a supra-national state.

Advocating regional integration may make one appear to be not nationalistic or unpatriotic. Of course, we are not nationalistic - nationalism is not our basic idea, although we deeply love our country. We consider ourselves internationalists and internationalism is not at odds with the love of one's homeland, of the land where a human being is born. Neither is the love of the land where one was born incompatible with a united region, continent or indeed world.

Regional integration is inevitable, is a must; it is part of economics. Today, economists must understand the importance of regional integration. And to understand this better, they must be political economists; and politicians must be politicians with - if it is possible - a maximum of knowledge. Today that is really the basis on which the fate of our people depends, the basis on which our struggles will be waged. And the politicians who do not understand, or do not want to understand, or who do not strive to understand these things, are not worthy exercising their duty.

New ideas to prepare the people for the future are needed and we must start struggling right now. Beginning today, we must start building awareness - a new awareness, we would say. Such a new and complex era as this one requires principles more than ever. It requires a lot more awareness, and that awareness will be built, by adding together, we might say, the awareness of what is happening and the awareness of what is going to happen. It has to be built by adding together more than just one revolutionary thought and the best of ethical and humane ideas and of more than one religion, of all authentic religions, the sum total of all the preaching of many political thinkers, of many schools and of many religions.

What worries us about our SADC approach to regional integration is that it appears to be more of just political leaders meeting and hammering out deals. We don't think it can be done this way. Even the Europeans didn't do it this way; they had to involve their people at every stage. There was a lot of explaining to be done and in some cases the people had to directly decide through a vote.

We don't believe that one or two political leaders on their own, no matter how intelligent or meritorious they may be can integrate and develop a region that doesn't seem to be ready for such an undertaking or that doesn't seem to be prepared to struggle for such a cause. A spirit of regional integration and the willingness to work or struggle for it must be created among our people; people willing to work for regional integration and development must be found with Diogenes' lamp and the patience of Job.

There is a tendency to think this regional integration is purely an economic matter with very little to do with politics.

And as such economists prepare documents for ratification by political leaders and in that way it is believed regional integration will come. This regional integration is a political undertaking, and, like all other political engagements requires serious political mobilisation and engagement of all our people in the region. Moreover, the regional integration we are seeking will not be built by our political leaders with a small band of economists but by the participation of all our people. Our regional integration will be the work of our people and their leaders. It cannot and can never be the work of a single individual or a small band of politicians and economists.

We therefore urge our political leaders meeting in Lusaka this week to critically examine the way they have been working and how isolated they have been in their regional work from their people and consider ways of bringing their people at the centre of all this.
It may be thought that we are suffering from the terrible disease of unwarranted pessimism. All that we are trying to do is get to the bottom of the situation and not present utopian images of our region that have nothing to do with reality. And let's not deceive ourselves that our dream of regional integration will come to fruition just like that, so simply and without any sweat. That will be a miracle.

And we know that in today's world there are few miracles. The region that we will get at the end of the day will only be that which the people of this region are able to create, are able to forge for themselves. It is therefore imperative that the southern African regional integration is not just for the heads of state to decide at summits.

We are not saying our leaders shouldn't meet. It is very important for them to meet and provide leadership to this regional integration. But things shouldn't end there because nothing will move without the involvement of all our people. Our leaders should not only talk about regional integration amongst themselves but they should also engage all our people and talk to them about this very important and necessary integration.

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