HomeOpinion & AnalysisAU must be cautious about the West’s ‘war on terror’ campaign

AU must be cautious about the West’s ‘war on terror’ campaign

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is probably the most satisfied man in the aftermath of the African Union (AU) summit which his government hosted recently.
The decision of the AU to send more troops to Somalia was in sync with his policy intentions in the aftermath of the deadly and tragic bombing of innocent Ugandan civilians that were watching a World Cup match earlier in July.
Indeed, there have been no reports of any head of state and government in Africa who was present or represented at the summit who disagreed with the final resolution on Somalia. And perhaps with good reason too.
The only danger is that of placing the Somalian civil war within the framework of the American-led “war on terror”. If the Peace and Security Council of the AU does so, Africa may be biting off more than it can chew.
When the terrorist attack on Uganda occurred, it was sadly not the first time that globalised terror had visited the shores of Africa. The Kenyan Nairobi bombings of 1998 that claimed hundreds of lives were indicative of how Africa regularly becomes sparring ground for foreign policies that are not necessarily ours.
Indeed, a sitting African government of the day can have legitimately endorsed athese foreign policies but without an adequate understanding of why there would be global pressure to pursue that particular path. And this appears true today.
The decision of the AU to increase troop presence in Somalia is taken against the backdrop of the United States President having said that the Al Shabaab terrorist group does not value African lives as human life.
It is also African states that regularly devalue human life by undertaking foreign policies as bargaining points either to solicit immunity from criticism by Western governments or acquire funding for domestic performance legitimacy.
This explains why some African states have agreed to be part of the American military’s Africa Command.
Because there is a general western consensus that the “war on terror” is a global one, Africa is expected to play its part. The only issue is that it must play its part critically and in its best interests.
The decision to increase troops in Somalia is all toosimilar to the “surge” in Afghanistan, which thus far has failed to produce the intended results.
If the AU fully implements this “surge” strategy in Somalia it will have inadvertently made its policy an extension of American foreign policy.
True enough the American military is helping the AU forces in Somalia already, but the narrative that will emerge will be no different from that of Afghanistan or Iraq. As yet we are not aware of how many civilian casualties have been killed in the Somali conflict.
But we do know that initially this was a domestic conflict that had been allowed by the AU to simmer for the last 20 odd years. It became”globalised” through allegations, mainly by the American government, that Somalia was now a breeding ground for Al Qaeda insurgents.
The failure of the intervention of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) transitional government has led many to believe that indeed Islamist extremism has a role in the Somali civil war.
The problem was the quick shift from understanding the conflict as primarily a domestic one before assuming that it fitted into the global context .
When the Peace and Security Council of the AU sits to decide on whether to change the mandate of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), it should be wary of being co-opted too easily into the global war on terror – the Somalian civil war style.
It must renew the peacekeeping mandate, appoint a mediator to approach the warring factions and seek a negotiated peace agreement.
This is not to say that those responsible for the terror attacks on Uganda should not be brought to book.
But we must think above the terror groups who expect a response similar to that of the US or Nato in Afghanistan or Iraq.
And further still, the AU must begin to recognise and co-operate with Somaliland if it wants a long-term solution to the problem of Somalia.
lTakura Zhangazha is a political analyst

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