The advent of the African Union (AU) can be described as an event of great magnitude in the institutional evolution of the continent. On 09 September 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) issued a Declaration (the Sirte Declaration) calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view, to accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable it play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalisation .
AU was started under the auspicious of OAU objectives and a lot of its objectives were advanced from that of OAU. The main objectives of the OAU were, inter alia, to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations .
These objectives were quite vague and broad without much emphasis in specific areas though indeed they were a bench mark for a better progress. Indeed, as a continental organization the OAU provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent in international forum and defend the interests of Africa effectively.
Through the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Continent worked and spoke as one with undivided determination in forging an international consensus in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid , it lacked the power and muscle to fight a decisive battle hence the formation of the AU. The AU which is Africa’s new political Union is hoped to foster prosperity and democracy through social, economic and regional integration. The AU is meant to be more radical than its predecessor.
Its charter makes provision for intervention, against a member state’s wishes, “in respect of grave circumstances” . The AU charter gave the AU real muscle to flex in case of any rogue nation that needs to be tamed by the member states. The charter was the basis for the AU intervention in Somalia and this has given credit to the AU and Africa as a whole. The formation of the ESTBRIG has also provided the AU with ready force for deployment in case of an emergency humanitarian intervention or national disaster.
The Objectives of the AU are to achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa; to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States; to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; to promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples; to encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent; to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance; to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments; to establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations; to promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies; to promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples; to coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union; to advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology; to work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent among others. African continent has been surrounded in many conflicts since the end of Second World War (WW2), partly due to colonization, struggle for power, strive for self governance, wars of liberations, abolition of apartheid among others.
The Africans all along had been waiting for an opportunity to air their views and fight back the colonial rule. There was a latent heat in Africa that was waiting to ignite conflicts in those areas that Africans were being oppressed. It is important therefore to think that latent conflict is ongoing in varying degrees of intensity, whether or not the issues are clearly formulated. This approach best describe the African phenomenon where the causes of conflicts are many and complex, including poor governance, poverty, drought, famine, competition for scarce resources, and identity-based rivalries resulting to an adverse impact on economic development in the region.
The impact of violent conflict has manifested itself psychologically, physically, and economically, going beyond the material and affecting the lives of thousands of women, children, and men. AU therefore, came at a time when it was most desired. The African continent needed a powerful organ that cans unit different regions, races, tribes and people from different religious background and creed. AU has become the best hope that the African continent is hanging its hopes on. There are a number of challenges that are facing the AU. One of the challenges facing the AU’s, is its capacity to address poverty alleviation . Many African countries are faced with poverty hence famine is rampant in Africa. A lot of communities are extremely poor and live under one dollar per day.
AU member countries lack the capacity to address poverty problems and therefore relay on donors to assist in feeding many Africans who face starvation whenever there is delay in rainfall. It has become a phenomenon in Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa to have frequent famine whenever there is a prolonged drought. The situation is compounded by lack of strategy to combat famine hence reduce the poverty level. It is hoped that with UN and AU encouragement of formation of regional and sub regional bodies to examine regional challenges in order to formulate strategies to combat those challenges will succeed. Lack of proper conflict management and resolution strategy has been a hindrance to peace for quite a while. Many African countries have been bogged up in conflicts that have taken too long to resolve.
The problem of Africa is the African themselves . When one study the challenges facing Africa as a whole, first and foremost, he will not fail to observe that nearly all the problems facing Africa are brewed in an African pot. It follows that the solution to those challenges must be formulated, structured and implemented in the African soil. There has been a huge void in peace building and humanitarian intervention from the AU member states for a long time, especially in the Eastern and Central Africa. Though OAU was established to foster good international relationship and cooperation; later succeeded by the AU, not all inter – African international relations, have been positive.
A major outbreak of violence include both South Africa and Zaire (Congo – Kinshasa), DRC conflict, Angolan civil war during the mid 1970s, Tanzania’s invasion of Uganda in 1979, Namibia, the Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe, all being active in DRC in the late 1990s and beyond. The Eritrean/ Ethiopian border war of 1998 to 2000, and Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2008 . These African countries have fought bitter wars due to very flimsy reasons and partly because of greed, corruption, neo-colonialism, nepotism, among others. When you look at the magnitude of greed, corruption, ritual murders, sexual orgies and wanton destruction that is carried out with the express knowledge and sanction of our leaders, you really cannot put blame outside of Africa . The magnitude of greed and corruption on the African soil has been increasing over the years.
The situation shows a new tread, thanks to the international organisations, national organisations, local societies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for enlightening our societies on their rights. These groups such as the human right watch and others have educated the people on their rights, fought against corruption and other misfortune in societies. Lack of committed African mediators and strategy to mediate for peace has also had its toll on the escalation of conflicts in the African region. Operation Restore Hope (ORH) carried its mandate successful in Somalia but its mandate was very limited. It did not carry out nationwide disarmament .
The AU failed to seize the opportunity and carry out a comprehensive demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration exercise which could have seen the end to the Somalia conflict which started way back in 1991 after the fall of former President Siad Barreh. The building and sustaining of governance institutions and security mechanisms is a big challenge in the African continent. This has been worsened by the lack of good, visionary, strategically leadership and good governance. Current debates on good leadership and criticisms of leadership style in Africa have solicited a lot of debate. The debate on African democracy brewed in African port is current and soliciting a lot of divisive views. AU has failed to stand tall and analyse the situation with a view to recommending stringent measures to the African leaders for home grown solutions.
The situation is now improving with the deployment of the AU Forces (AMISOM) in Somalia and the integration of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) into the AMISOM forces. AU must now move fast and seal the loop holes in order to unite the deferent functions in Somalia, form an acceptable government by all citizens of Somalia. To do this, AU must seek assistance from the UN. Lack of funds to implement resolutions passed by the AU has been a major problem. External assistance fell off substantially after the late 1970s, when the oil shocks led the US and its European allies to erect trade barriers and provide less capital . This was worsened by the end of the cold war when the world became a bipolar. The former Soviet Union broke up hence Russia could not fund organisations as per earlier tune.
The US now had no competitor in the world and Africa has become less relevant. The instability in Libya that lead to the killing of the former Libyan President Moamar Gaddafi has worsen the funding of AU problem since Mr. Gaddafi was the king pin behind AU establishment and funding. Lack of AU intervention in African conflicts in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has robbed AU credibility since foreign powers influenced and perpetrated the conflicts in those countries just to further their selfish ends. If AU had actively participated in peace negotiation between the Egyptian government and the rebels, a lot of bloodshed could have been avoided and may be; today Mr Gaddafi could be alive today.
AU lack capacity to monitor, policy, gather information (intelligence collection) and analysing. If AU had the capacity to read the sign and symptoms, the Rwanda genocide would not have happened. Any genocide worthy of mentioning does not erupt spontaneously. It requires planning, preparation, organizing and a form of government whose human rights protection are inadequate . There were a lot of indicators that the Rwandan genocide was going to happen yet both the international community and the regional bodies never read the signs. That was a worst mistake to have happened in the modern history. Lack of technology advancement is also a problem that AU has to have to contend with in the African continent.
Africa has always lagged behind in the field of technological advancement due to high level of illiteracy, lack of funds to advance technology and cultural believes. However, this trend is changing in the long run. Africa now than ever is embossing technology e. g. the discovery of ‘M Pesa’ technology which was started in Kenya and is now flourishing in the whole world. Lack of good governance. Good governance that has a system of administration that is democratic, efficient and development oriented has remained elusive in Africa . Governance in Africa has been characterised by tribalism, nepotism, partisans’, racism and politics of heritage (kinship). This has resulted in bad politics, Corruption and violence during general elections whenever Africans are to choose their political leaders.
The creation of NEPAD to champion for good governance, women’s rights , and combat the effects of HIV/AIDS among others is proving to be a failure due to challenges in implementation; and harmonising the Protocol with national laws . NEPAD which was amalgam of three initiatives; Millennium Partnership for Africa (MAP) whose main objective was to address African’s depts. OMEGA plan was for development of regional infrastructure and the Global Compact for Africa Recovery whose aim was peer review and initiated by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). NEPAD is seen as a foreign idea hence many African leaders are lukewarm about it, as it lacks originality.
There are ample grounds for both optimism and pessimism about the capacity of the AU and NEPAD to promote good governance. NEPAD is seen as a new weapon to control Africa by the western capitalists. African leaders seem to share membership in a cryptic club, Presidential brotherhood , in which there is little inclination to castigate but greater tendency to empathise with members. The affirmation of the brotherhood bond where AU heads of states refused to recognise Marc Ravalomanana and instead threw support for the old and long-time leader Didier Ratsiraka, whose controversial victory was annulled by the highest country’s constitutional court in April 2002.
There are many examples in Africa where AU has recognized the presidency of an old guard due to brotherhood rather than scrutinizing the circumstance and ruling the matter with a sober head. The same characteristics were shown during the presidential election in Nigeria in April 2003 even after the international observers had dubbed the election as characterised by “serious irregularities” , the African leaders congratulated the former President Obasanjo. That outright confirmed that the African leaders condone bad government. African leaders must come out clearly, in solidarity and condemn serious irregularities in elections. Furthermore they should condemn African undemocratic leaders and take stern action against them.
Marginalisation of African countries on the fall of the Eastern super power, United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), by the powerful nations has also contributed a lot in failure of regional bodies including AU in achieving their aims and objectives. The African leaders (AU) must sober up and face the realities of life. No developing nation will guide and draft a blue print for a solution for African countries in order for them to become powerful nations in the world (United States of Africa). It is only through African leader’s hard work, trust, loyalty, cooperation and foresight that will see the AU overcome the above challenges and come out with AU as envisaged by the former President of Ghana the late Kwame Nkrumah. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Alex Thomson (2010). An Introduction to African Politics. Milton Park, Abingdon. Oxon. Also published in USA and Canada. 2. Adda B.
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