The African Union Has Denied Haiti Membership: Only a few weeks after many people celebrated Haiti’s expected acceptance as an African Union member at the African Union’s next summit in Kigali, some bad news arrives to dampen our enthusiasm.
The African Union refused to give Haiti associate member status in a statement released on Tuesday, May 17th, claiming that only African states can join the African Union, according to its statutes (article 29.1 of the AU constitution).
This restrictive definition, it appears, is based on geography rather than philosophy, physical location rather than identity, and views an “African state” to be nothing more than a collection of territorial boundaries that run haphazardly over the continent. It provides no immediate function for the union and is self-limiting.
Physical closeness is often the least important factor in establishing cross-national collaboration; in fact, it has frequently been the source of conflict and mutual resentment among neighbors. Physical distance means next to nothing in this age of globalization, it cannot be emphasized. Haiti has far too much in common with Africa to be refused full membership in the African Union.
The importance of a shared identity (language, culture, and ideology) cannot be overstated. It’s why the United States has a stronger relationship with the United Kingdom than it does with neighboring Mexico and the rest of the Americas; it’s why Cuba has a stronger relationship with Russia than it does with its neighbors; it’s why a Nigerian can connect with a Ghanaian faster than a Cameroonian. The Arab League, NATO, and even the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are instances of how a powerful community of states may be formed outside of geographical closeness.
Due to the denial of full membership, Haiti is expected to remain as an observer member (with no vote or proposal rights), a status it has had since 2012.
For whatever reason, it appears that the AU is hesitant to accept Haiti into its fold. Referring to a statute that can always be altered appears to be a convenient excuse for the AU, which most likely does not regard a stronger link with Haiti as being of immediate advantage to the member states’ economic and political well-being.
One has to ask if the AU would react in the same way or be willing to modify its attitude if a more rich country, such as Brazil, expressed comparable interest in joining the organization.
The AU emphasized its proposal for a “sixth region” made up of the African diaspora and civil society organizations from Africa, affirming its love and collaboration with sister states across the Caribbean and people of African heritage.
All of these, however, fall short of the AU’s no-holds-barred welcome that Haiti deserved.