Understanding the 'African Solution'By LEE MWITI | Wednesday, March 23 2011 at 14:43
Let’s cut the AU some slack. The bloc regularly comes in for what true pan-Africans would call pot shots by noisy critics who accuse it of being, among other things, toothless and rather rudderless.
These armchair types often tend to conveniently ignore the AU's heightened profile since it succeeded it’s even more distinguished predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity.
This should not be the case, since the refurbished body has in the last decade added some decibels to its bark, after being unfairly accused of whimpering.
The evidence supports this. Take the AU's latest stance over that currently vibrant oil spot, Libya. It has demanded an “immediate stop” to the Allied-led strikes, a brave take in the face of Tomahawk cruise missiles and aircraft named Tornado or Typhoon.
Never mind that many suspect that the small fact that the embattled (but defiant) strongman Muammar Gaddafi (or Kadhafi or Gathafi or Qaddafi depending on who you read) finances a third of the AU’s annual budget, and pays off members’ arrears, has something to do with it.
More evidence of the AU's effectiveness is to be found in its busy activity over Côte d'Ivoire. The returns as of now may be exactly zero, but who else has succeeded despite numerous "targeted sanctions"?
Why do these self-styled analysts overlook the noble fact that Addis Ababa-based body has in recent times told off and suspended "bad boys" Niger, Guinea and Madagascar?
The bloc’s "African solution to an African problem" line regularly trotted out in such instances has been unfairly criticised. Claims that it is a euphemism for “Let’s-buy-some- time-and-wait-for-this-to-die-down” are unfounded and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
The Igbo of Nigeria have a saying: Even though the baby monkey appears so ugly, it's mother loves it anyway.
What these critics fail to realise is that an entity is only as good as the sum of its parts; an organisation is only as strong as its member countries.
Take Libya and Côte d'Ivoire again. The AU has taken the time-honoured African solution of appointing commissions on anything under the sun, only that here, because they constitute sitting Presidents, they are called panels. In Africa, we really do respect our elders.
The panel on Libya has the presidents of South Africa, Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and Congo. Many layabouts will correctly observe that bar Jacob Zuma, the rest all initially came to power through either coups or armed rebellions.
Some like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have been in power for close to three decades. The man they were tasked to “talk” to, Colonel Gaddafi, on March 2 marked his 42nd anniversary, albeit in less than auspicious circumstances because of those pesky rebels. What better emissary to send than your peers who understand what being "strong-willed" entails? It is not the same as being a "strongman".
The other panel on Cote d’Ivoire has the eminent leaders of South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso. Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso has been in power since 1987 and all right, you guessed it too, came to power through a coup. As did Chad’s Idriss Déby Itno. It is important to realise that they were chosen because one needs experienced and sober heads for such a delicate matter .
Yes, this panel did try to convince feuding Ivorian presidential claimants Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara to form a unity government. But why not when Zimbabwe and Kenya have shown that this solution works, even if it is not an exact science? After all, no one drinks hot pepper soup in a hurry.
These shrill voices should accept that imposing their ideals of carefully nurtured democracy will not work in Africa: When the leopard is made judge, the goat cannot really expect a fair hearing.
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