The AU and the Tragedy of a New Headquarters

24 Jan

The New AU Building Courtesy of

On the 28th of January, 2012 African countries will collectively descend to a new low on the global index of state sovereignty, territorial integrity and actual independence of nations. On that day, Chinese President Hu Jintao will be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to commission the new $124 Million African Union Headquarters built and donated to the continent by China.  Termed “China’s gift to Africa”, the edifice was constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation with over 90% Chinese labor.

According to   Zeng Huacheng, a special councilor to the AU headquarters project from China’s Ministry of Commerce, “The panoramic view of the conference center is like two hands holding each other, signifying the strenghtening friendship between China and Africa.”

It is to the discredit of the African Union and therefore, every individual and country within that regional body that in 2012, a building as symbolic as the African Union Headquarters is designed, built and maintained by a foreign country, it does not matter which country.

The ancient and modern history of donation of buildings and structures from one nation to another is filled with intrigues and subterfuges, conquests, diplomatic schemings, espionage and counter espionage, economic manipulations, political statements and dominations. The construction of the Trojan horse by Odysseus and its ‘donation’ resulted in the Greek conquest of the ancient city of Troy after 10 years of unending skirmish.

In building the Basilica in Rome – termed the “greatest of all churches of Christendom,” contributions from faithfuls were emphasized rather than donations from friendly nations. Even the gift of the Liberty Statue from France to the United States on occasion of the latter’s independence was a joint effort, whereby over 120,000 Americans led by Joseph Pulitzer contributed funds for the construction of the pedestal in 1885.

In a rare glimpse into the matter, in the book Architecture of Diplomacy, Jane C. Loeffler reveals the underlying diplomatic maneuverings and political ramifications that defines the construction of American embassies all over the world .  The author states that building an embassy requires “as much diplomacy as design.” Loeffler enumerates factors seriously considered in the construction of an American embassy building and they include “World politics, American agendas, Architectural politics, cultural considerations, security” and several others.

Common sense dictates that in an era of increasing exploitation of Africa’s natural resources by foreign powers including  China, that the African Union, rather than the apparent submission signified by acceptance of the construction of its headquarters  by China, will be an organization advocating for fairness in the relationship that exists  between the continent and the global powers.

Chinese President Hun Jintao

Should security considerations be included, then the question arises as to how African heads of state and government could hold confidential meetings in a building they have no idea how it was wired. What guarantee do African governments have that every word uttered in the new headquarters in Addis Ababa is not heard in Beijing? What evidence negates the suspicion that all activities in the just completed building  are not replayed on a large screen in Beijing as Chinese secret service agents watch?

Culturally, indigenous Bantu culture abhors dependence on others for sustenance. A favorite Swahili proverb of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s is “Mgeni siku mbili; siku ya tatu mpe jembe” which means “treat your guest as a guest for two days; on the third day give him a hoe.”  Indigenous African tradition largely abhors dependency of any kind. It is frowned upon for a man not to thatch his rooftops well before the rainy season, or to stay back while others are going to the farm, except he is bedridden. Add this to the  logic espoused in Archtitecture of Diplomacy, and one reasonably concludes that  it is unacceptable for Africans to accept a building from China that will house what should be the landmark of the continent’s achievements and its aspirations for the future.

Clearly, much indiscretion was exercised by the African Union officials in the acceptance of the offer of a new headquarters from China. The African Union has since deviated from the ideals of its founding fathers when in the 1960s Kwame Nkrumah and other great African leaders sought to establish an organization that would protect the geographical contiguity and territorial integrity of African nations. Emperor Haile Selassie in his historic 1963 speech stated clearly that the Organization was founded because “Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men. The blood that was shed and sufferings that were endured are today Africa’s advocates for freedom and unity.”

Contrary to his predecessor’s commitment to the continued freedom of the continent from imperial forces,  Ethiopian Prime minister  Meles Zenawi  – currently being accused of selling huge swathes of Ethiopian land to foreign countries – on a tour of the facility boasted of how he single handedly lobbied Chinese officials to build the new headquarters and how he exempted taxes on all Chinese imported construction materials.

Gleeful at the opportunity for African heads of state to indulge in their lifestyles of conspicuous consumption during meetings and summits, AU Projects Director Fantahun Hailemikael reports that among the several luxuries of the building is a “helicopter landing pad so visiting dignitaries will be flown from the airport.” Of course the dignitaries will be spared the not-so-impressive sight of parts of Addis  Ababa. They will be flown from the airport to the AU building and from there to Sheraton Addis, reportedly the best of its kind around the world.

While the African Union might think it has gained from China by moving into its new ultra-modern facility, the reality is that the continent has lost tremendously in all matters worthy of reasonable consideration. The move to reverse the derogatory perception of Africa and Africans by all non-Africans has suffered another major setback.  The resultant effect will be the continued political and economic manipulation and domination of the region by the West, and now China, and soon the rest of the non-African world.


Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Essays


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15 responses to “The AU and the Tragedy of a New Headquarters

  1. Anandi Sharan

    January 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for a great article. In order for all of us in Group of 77 (G77) and China countries to be free we have to be free of NATO. Today the United States of America is battling to save the United States of America dollar and its hegemony over globla trade and environmental resources. But Group of 77 (G77) and China have been demanding sustinable development since 1989 to no avail. In this sense China was at just 1 tCo2e per person per year like all of us in 1989, but thanks to communism they have created a strngth both military and economic to counter NATO. We will use this together as a Group of 77 (G77) and China and Russia to destroy the ability of NATO countries to emit greenhouse gases and use nuclear. Then we will set up the energy backed currency to limit globla trade and liquidity and have an orderly exit from hydrocartobns to save the erath and life on earth as we know it. Please bear with the alliances we still need to make for some more years amongst the Group of 77 (G77) and China and Russia for some more years to save life on earth. Please also see my article here : Energy Security the Missing Dimension. Best wishes and thanks. Anandi

  2. livre pensador mocambicano

    January 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    A friend in need is a friend indeed…supposing that you had been educated in Beijing, what kind a vision would be yours? I ´m not prone to support Chinese geopolitics in Africa, but if compared to those from United States and Europe I disclosed very big advantages for the Africans. Besides, bringing development to Africa is also important to Chinese and BRICS in general, since we are potential consumers of their goods as Europeans have been. In this world, we are facing now a turning point in terms of economy and finance. Its absolutely clear that BRICS have now the manufacture and energy sources. On the other hand, United States and Europe have the weapons and the Stock Exchange. The ultimate hypothesis for the West would be a new . They have been making attempts in Middle East, and may be it will work with Iran.Nevertheless, all BRICS will stand at same pace, no matter how… By the way, did you know the real Iran´s energetic dilemma? You should go deeper in this subject too.

  3. Carlos Serra

    January 27, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Chika Ezeanya a propósito da nova sede da UA

    No dia 28 a União Africana disporá de um edifício de 124 milhões de dólares, sua nova sede, doado pela China com o nome “Oferta da China a África”. O presidente chinês deverá visitar a Etiópia para a inauguração. A esse propósito, Chika Ezeanya escreveu um texto no seu portal, aqui.
    Read more:

  4. Deborah Brautigam

    January 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Chika — This is a very thoughtful essay. I am collecting data on Chinese workers/African workers on specific projects, and I wondered if you could share your source for the proportion of Chinese labor on this project. Many thanks, Deborah Brautigam:

  5. camaay

    January 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks a million times,Chika,for your objective and inspirational thoughts.We are ruled by fools.As a follow up to this,China first summoned them to a party in Beijin.All African leaders went to China for a party.I cannot express the degree of both sadness and shame that I felt.I believe that in no distant future Africa shall witness generational change in leadership.It will happen,one way or another.

  6. Kofi Ackah

    January 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    This is very humiliating. It is even more sad that most Africans have no idea of the project and how it was funded. Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah inspires me so much and I wonder how he would feel that this project which is opposed to what he stands for has his statue built at it’s forecourt?
    The new seat of Governance for my Country, Ghana, was funded and built by India, the ministry of defense or the military Headquarters was also funded and built by China.
    Where are we going with this kind of thinking from our leaders.

  7. Voyeurism Sucks

    January 29, 2012 at 5:18 am

    I don’t know a lot about Africa, but I know that any developing country should be the leading investor in its potential, and that that potential should not be dictated by or for anyone else’s or any other countries interest. I simply don’t understand how you can develop your people and your wealth with someone else dictating that growth.

  8. peterinnehson

    January 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Hello Chika, Thank you for your thought. It is a pity that many African leaders don´t see to learn from history. The things that do surprise me about many Africans are that we continued to be subject to every advanced or advancing country or races. The Europeans have done their own and left us with misery and religion. We have heroes that died for the sake of our freedom, men like MARTIN LUTHER KING, NELSON MANDELA AND MACON X. In stead of giving thanks to those GODS, who have done more than the hero of Israelis (Jesus) and the hero of Saudi Arabia (Mohammed) we ignored their effort that kept us alive as a race. If the America Indians or the Aboriginals of Australia were to have men like our GODS, they would have made it as we did. Yes, we made it to this present civilization of man. However, we continued to remain subject, weak and expose to exploitation by any civilized race and people, and we continued to live under the grace of countries that have advanced technology and weapons, who can decide our faith as a race. This is because we had failed to develop.
    History had shown that when a race failed to civilize they maybe wipe out by civilized races.
    The things blocking our advancement are lacked of dignity for ourselves as people and lacked of established law. We have given out our dignity as people by worshiping the heroes of other races and people. Jesus opposed the Roma because of their oppression of the Israelis, and died for the sake of the Israelis, not for the sake of Africans. Mohammed did the same for his people and not for the sake of Africans. Today, we have constitutions but the laws established by those men (Jesus and Mohammed) which are only applicable to their people based on their culture are given priority over our established constitution. We may be far from the people of those heroes, but our laws and actions derived from them. We have no control over ourselves. China who got independent the same period as us is stepping up colonization in Africa, undoubtedly we would become Buddha. It´s a shame that we preferred to be beggers instead of taking The chinese as business partners.

  9. Anandi Sharan

    January 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

    How to manage an ecological socialist country: People are worried that if the global trading currency is the EBCU with the underlying value of declining emission permits for hydrocarbons, what will be the international trading currency for food? If one country has absolutely no capacity for producing its own food and needs to buy it from Ukraine, but Ukraine has no need for the sand that that country does produce, how will it trade with Ukraine? The answer is that a country that is not self-sufficient in food is not a viable country. It will have to enter into a free trade agreement or common market agreement with its neighbours. Indeed a common currency zone should be envisaged. Thus the Organisation of African Unity may become one or more free trade zones and one or more currency zones. This will work fine provided such countries/regions avoid the mistakes of the European Union which based its monetary policy on fractional reserve banking instead of positive money. Provided the OAU has a central bank that does not lend but rather spends money into circulation first and foremost for total food self-sufficiency and only secondarily for industry and for exports last of all – as indeed the EU is now doing through the housing sector – it will avoid so called ‘debt default’. ‘Sovreign debt default’ of sovereign regions/countries is an ideological construction of capitalism whose time is over now that the USA is also hopefully down and out on the global stage and now that the EU seems to learning its own lesson. Let us make it our common missions to end such things as a private exchange in the hands of American hedge funds for currency swaps. Instead let ecological socialist governments take care of common currencies for investment in food production and housing, clothing, education, health. Of all systems capitalism and the profit motive is the worst for managing quick and effective distribution of goods and services to human beings by human beings in their localities, let alone controlling the pollution from hydrocarbons that is destroying the food production capacity of the earth, which is the top and bottom of human survival.

  10. Marc Enoh

    January 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    The only pint i fully agree with in this whole essay is … ” it is unacceptable for Africans to accept a building from China that will house what should be the landmark of the continent’s achievements and its aspirations for the future. ”

    However, i don’t think that a building offered to the AU by China should have any significant bearing on future political and economic decisions made by AU sovereign members. The building my just be a materialization of China’s intention to extend its geopolitical and economic power in Africa. They recognize that Africa is relatively infra-structurally backwards and so the idea of a building is justified.

    I think your problem lies with the symbol. The AU headquarters has to be something for the Africans, by the Africans etc but you need to realize that the building is not what defines the institution. What clearly defines the institution is the PEOPLE who work in it.

    In Cameroon for example, the Chinese built the Palais de Congres but in no way is it seen as a sign of Chinese imperialism.

    However, you make a pertinent point as i quested in my first sentence.


    January 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Whether the killers and looters do their planning at their own palace or the Chinese-made building does not matter. Unite and end state terrorism in Ethiopia and elsewhere and then talk of building a building that will house freely elected representatives that care for their people and their country rather than their pocket and length of the reign of terror as Meles/Azeb of Ethiopia are doing. Meles Zenawi is the only one in history who hates the country he is supposed to administer and the people he is supposed to serve. I hope I will live long to see how Meles/Azeb end up like the last communist leader of Romania being dragged out of the Menelik Palace by angry/hungry Ethiopians. I hope Tigrean brothers and sisters will not be cheated by the “FIRFARI” they get from Meles/Azeb and think of their long term interest and join other Ethiopian brothers and sisters to end woyane state terrorism, looting and ethnic politics.

  12. Spaa Water

    February 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Dear Chika,

    I have no doupt on my mind that the Chinese have wired that building with state of the art listening and monitoring devices that will enable them to hear the breath of every single person that goes into that building and see every single thing they do in that building. What a pity.. shame on Africa leaders.

  13. Asoka

    February 2, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    It is a shame of apocalyptical proportion that the democratic African continent accepted such “gift” from the anti-democratical, authoritarian communist China. It should be immediately demolished and shipped back to China piece by piece. We don’t need such a grotesque gift. It will be a shame for many generations to come if we let it stand. We Africans may be poor, but we are proud.

  14. horlar

    March 22, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    It is a big shame on Africa leaders. SHAME ON THEM. Hungry leaders, how can someone help build their fathers house as a gift…..Why is Chinese giving Africa a gift……….Why can’t the gift be used to reduce the rate of poverty to in China.


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