Monday, March 3, 2008

African Union: Wine-sipping at a funeral?

Like many other poor African countries, the heart of Chad’s problems lies with its constitutional deficiencies and lack of respect for the rule of law, argues Thompson Ayodele of the Lagos-based Initiative for Public Policy Analysis. Take for instance Chad’s parliament voting to amend the country’s Petroleum Management Agreement, turning back the government’s obligation to invest ten percent of oil revenues in “future generations.” Or, President Idriss Deby’s decision to unilaterally change the constitution allowing him a third term. Then there’s the rumors flying that he has begun grooming his son to be his successor.

Question: Where is the African Union in all this?

Ayodele writing in Global Integrity Commons:

The events unfolding in Kenya and Chad are test cases for the African Union over its relevance in the 21st century. While the African Union does inform the whole world about its efforts or steps being taken to end crises in parts of the continent, most often such efforts have failed to cut ice. Condemning the likes of Deby and Kibaki would be tantamount to condemning many leaders who cherish longevity on the throne.

On a number of occasions, the AU continues to display its inability to proffer solution to crises within Africa. It continues to treat with kid-gloves those whose actions are responsible for crises. For instance, at the just concluded AU meeting, president Kibaki actions in Kenya were not condemned in absolute terms for the killings in Kenya. Instead, it was a wine-sipping moment.

It is crystal clear the crisis in Chad can only be resolved through constitutionalism, the rule of law and not through the battlefield. To make this happen, the whole process would have to be spearheaded by the African Union. It must take a pro-active role in resolving most of the crises on the continent. Failure to do so would portray African Union as a body that is always prepared to shirk one of its primary responsibilities -- protecting ordinary African citizens from plunder.

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