The Mockery That is the African Union

April 7, 2011  |  

by Brendah Nyakudya

Propelled by what was perceived to be the success of the Organization of African Union (OAU), 53 African member states convened in July 1999 and formed the African Union (AU).  The mission was to push for “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” Their objectives were filled with such optimism that if implemented correctly would drive the continent of Africa from being a failed state, ravaged by colonialism and apartheid, to being hailed as a power player on the world stage.

But right from the onset, failure was inevitable.  The forming of any union must be based on more than a pipe dream of the few.  For the AU to successfully unify Africa it needed the buy in and momentum of ALL Africans. It needed every African to share in the common goal of a unified Africa. But that conversation was never held. As Africans we don’t share common values beyond the basic principles shared by all humankind.  We simply have not had the dialogue to determine where we want to be and what that means for every single African. That conversation has not even happened internally in many African states.  So, when the African states as a Union don’t have a clear path for their own destiny, how can they possibly hope for an African Union (under any name) to be a success?

From that superficial start things have gotten worse for the Union that was meant to be a voice for the people of Africa.  Over the years it disappointed in its actions and has been left sidelined and ignored by much of the world.  When the UN assembled in London to discuss attacks on Gadhafi, they paid no mind to the AU’s misgivings and boycott.  The dismissal leads one to question if the AU – both its concept and current activity – are relevant.

For it seems the AU has essentially become a non-entity in the political arena.  They have no one to blame but themselves.  Aside from the lack of direction, over the years the young optimistic leaders turned into power-hungry disillusioned old men.  These men never take decisive action, opting instead to hide behind statements, dialogue and committees.

It’s a sad fact that the AU is now plagued by a rotten and corrupt core. Looking at the member states one would find a myriad of characters that have been called everything from dictators to despots, accused of crimes that range from political intimidation, election rigging to genocide. It is a slap in the face of democracy that the AU has as its members some of the longest serving dictators in the world. They include man of the moment Muammar al-Gaddafi who has been in power for 42 years, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, leading the pack with 44 years, President Eduardo dos Santos, 32 years, and the infamous President Mugabe holding on at 31 years. This does not marry with the objectives of a body purporting to “promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.”

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