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Reviewed by:
  • The African Union: Pan-Africanism, Peacebuilding And Development
  • Joseph Jusuf Bangura
Murithi, Timothy . 2005. The African Union: Pan-Africanism, Peacebuilding And Development. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing. 174 pp. $99.95 (cloth)

Timothy Murithi offers an interesting insight into the formation and workings of the African Union (AU), which was officially inaugurated in 2004 to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Assessing the activities of the AU, he argues that its formation indicates Africans' determination to shape and control their own destinies, long in the hands of imperialist powers (pp. 1–10). To reinforce his claim that imperialists and/or colonialists controlled Africans' lives, he traces the history of colonialism and connects [End Page 133] it with the rise of African consciousness, usually called Pan-Africanism. Boldly, he asserts that colonialism impaired and stunted the growth of Africa (pp. 12–18). In chiding the IMF for promoting policies that generate poverty and lack of development in Africa, Murithi maintains that these policies have inhibited the peacekeeping and peace-building capacities of many African governments. He blames African governments for corruption that has wreaked economic and political havoc on their people. For him, the ineffectiveness of the OAU arose out of the altruism of its founders, who deliberately created an institution to serve their political interests, rather than the interests of their subjects. To this end, he argues that only through the promotion of a pan-African political system will Africa be in a position not only to develop, but to define the terms of its engagement with the rest of the world. He believes the formation of the AU holds much promise and signals that Africans are ready to put the failures of the past behind them.

In analyzing the institutions of the AU, Murithi espouses the initial successes the organization has achieved, including increasing the role of women in its administration, creating a Pan-African parliament (women constituting 20 percent of its membership), and forming a security council charged with preventing conflicts and enforcing peace, particularly when conflicts in member states pose a threat to civilians' lives. Though Africa is immersed in internal strife caused by multifarious factors, he argues that for genuine peace to be attained, the AU has to work with what he calls "sub-national and non state actors" (p. 51). Flowing from this idea, he asserts that African governments should be more proactive in stemming and intervening in conflicts. He says Africans should adopt traditional values in resolving human-rights abuses. Citing the case of Somalia, he argues that traditional methods of resolving conflicts brought some semblance of peace to the war-torn country. (This success has now been overtaken by events.) He highlights the importance of NEPAD and the merit of the peer-review mechanism instituted as part of Africa's stride toward good governance.

In all, Murithi maintains that Africa's future is in its own hands, provided the leaders shed their subservience to the West and their predatory tendencies, which have kept many Africans from enjoying the profits of Africa's resources. He recommends the integration of civil society groups in the governance of African states, the promotion of participatory democracy, and the return to "traditional values."

The book offers many interesting ideas, suggestions, and recommendations, but the prose should have been strengthened. Clearly, the work did not enjoy the benefits of proofreading: it is fraught with grammatical errors that should have been fixed. These errors blur its argument. In addition, its structure makes for difficult reading. The book contains many minisections that do not effectively advance its thesis. Many of these sections are hazy, nebulous, and repetitive, with particularly sterile arguments. The rehashing of the history of pan-Africanism and colonialism and its impact on Africa could be made into a paragraph or two, since numerous works expatiate on this subject. Also, Murithi starts his chapters with quotes from "Pan-Africanists" [End Page 134] that have no functional relevance to the content of these chapters. Many of the quotes prove distracting, since few of them are grounded in clear historical or political contexts.

Apart from these weaknesses, parts of Murithi's arguments are problematic. Chapter six recommends that indigenous institutions...


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