The African Union and International Aggression

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) decision to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi with force has drawn criticism and polemics from the African Union (AU) lamenting the manner the air campaign has been carried out resulting in massive losses of civilian lives and a blatant disregard for Libya’s sovereignty. In a BBC interview Chairman of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping complained that the continental body was never consulted before the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. Even though some measure of recognition has been extended to the National Transitional Council (NTC) with the AU pledging support for the interim government during the phase of reconstruction as outlined in a statement from the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who holds the bloc’s rotating chair, the continent still appears to be conflicted about the way and manner regime change has been carried out in the oil rich North African country.

Some political pundits have called the NATO campaign illegal lambasting the conversion of the imposition of a no-fly zone into a forceful removal of a sitting President. Of course remarks have also been made about Gaddafi’s seminal role in the formation of the African Union itself after its establishment in July 2002 replacing the erstwhile Organization of African Unity. The former dictator’s financial contributions towards the creation of the union and his call for a continental government leading to a United States of Africa has been lauded by African leaders as well as scholars. It is interesting to note however, that the support for the ousted Libyan leader comes at a time when the AU is calling for the democratization of member states and the respect for Human Rights within the ranks of member countries.

The fundamental contradiction in the AU’s willingness to endorse a political despot like Gaddafi whilst calling for good governance and respect for Human Rights underscores a lack of focus in its operational mandate. Unfortunately, a lot of the continent’s rulers sympathize with the former Libyan leader because of their protracted stay in power. How can Africa really and truly adhere to the basic tenets of good governance and democratic rule when the incumbent chair of the AU has himself been blamed and criticized for failing to democratize the institutions in his country?

The continent’s drive towards economic emancipation will never be realized unless the proper measures are put in place to ensure proper political dispensation within African states. The call for responsible and sound political leadership is key to Africa’s economic growth. It therefore behooves regional organizations such as ECOWAS, SADC, EAC and COMESA in conjunction with the main continental body to engage in corrective leadership whereby African leaders who ignore democratic rule are reprimanded or isolated for their actions by other continental leaders.

To some extent the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was adopted within the framework of the African Union to harmonize the continent’s political values and urge African states to practice and respect proper methods of governance. Unfortunately, the brilliant initiative which appeared to be unique to the continent has lost steam and seems to have lost the support it once enjoyed from continental leaders such as John A. Kufuor of Ghana. The AU is therefore no longer in a good position to monitor the political practices of member states and to ensure that they conform with the continental endeavor for  proper economic and governance values as outlined in the 37th Summit of the Organization of African Unity held in July 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia, adopting a document setting out a new vision for the revival and development of Africa.

Political underdevelopment therefore continues culminating in economic backwardness rendering it difficult if not outright impossible for the continent to stand up to or resist international aggression such as the NATO military action in Libya. The  time has come for the continent’s rulers to realize that in the realm of international relations, might is indeed right and until Africa becomes a major player economically and places itself in a good position to influence global trade and finance the continent’s interest will always remain secondary to the imperialistic tendencies of the West.

Unfortunately, the AU as the showpiece for the continent’s evolution is failing to engineer the needed political changes that will bring forth prosperity for Africa and its people. African states continue to perpetually rely on their colonial masters for financial sustenance due to their inability to make proper use of the bountiful resources at their disposal. Economic mismanagement, corruption, political nepotism and tribalism are still features of African politics making it increasingly difficult for the continent to become a major player when it comes to international politics.  Africa’s inability to make meaningful contributions to global economics and the lack of technological progress or proper industrialization means that the continent will continue to stay on the margins of international affairs negotiating from a position of weakness and remaining as a fertile ground for pillaging and exploitation by Western countries and other growing powers posing as new developmental partners.

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