Viewpoint: Ivory Coast, Libya crises expose African Union

The recent conflict in Ivory Coast and lately, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato)-led war in Libya, which has hounded strongman Muammar Gaddafi out of power, has exposed the African Union (AU) as a toothless bulldog: able to bark, but unable to bite.

Questions abound on why the AU dismally failed to prove its worth in finding peaceful solutions to the conflict that cost up to 3 000 African lives in Ivory Coast and lately, the war against Gaddafi which continues to claim innocent lives and destroying livelihoods.

“Africa does not need any external influence. Africa must manage its own affairs,” declared Theodoro Obiang Nguema, chairman of the AU, in grandstanding fashion.

He spoke while condemning French military operations in Ivory Coast and the Nato-led offensive against Gaddafi.

“Each foreigner is susceptible to proposing erroneous solutions. African problems cannot be resolved with a European, American or Asian view.”

Nguema, the AU chairman, spoke on April 5 after French attack helicopters struck Ivorian military bases in Abidjan and destroyed over 10 armoured vehicles, four anti-aircraft weapons, the broadcasting station of the State-run radio and television and the presidential residence.

The French military joined forces with United Nations “peacekeepers” in aiding Alassane Ouattara’s armed struggle to remove former strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

Though hardly the model of a democratic ruler, Nguema was right: Africa needs homegrown solutions for its problems.

Former student leader- turned politician Charlton Hwende, on a post on his Facebook page, agrees: “We can only advance the African democratic revolution by mobilising our own people to remove dictators just like the way they did it in Egypt and Tunisia, not the Nato way.”

But why has the AU proved to be so ineffective in achieving these goals?

In my opinion, the AU has grown to become reactionary, responding not through a highly coordinated and organic manner, but panic reactions.

When the Nato bombings of Libya started, the AU had a resolution on fact-finding. Because of this lethargy, the AU has created a vacuum which the Western world is unjustly manipulating for their selfish ends.

The sad reality is that the major beneficiaries of the fall of Gaddafi will not be jubilant Libyans who swarmed the streets of Tripoli last week, but Western powers that will soon start parcelling out to each other the oil resources of this North African country.

The AU should not be a symbolic figure.

It must be pro-active.

Sadly, as it became clear Gaddafi was now history, the AU held an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This, in my opinion, was tantamount to closing the gates when the horse had bolted out.

The AU must face the realities on the ground. It is fast losing its relevance and Western powers are now very contemptuous of this pan-African body.

That is why on the day Jacob Zuma, while on a AU mission in Libya, was calling for the cessation of hostilities, Western powers were unveiling military packages to reinforce the rebels.

That is why Nato was able to manipulate United Nations Resolution 1973 to effect regime change in Libya.

That is also why UN “peacekeepers” abandoned their no-interference mandate in Ivory Coast and fought side by side with a rebel movement.

The UN resolution on Libya demanded an “immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilian” which it said might constitute “crimes against humanity”.

The Security Council imposed a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on Gaddafi’s regime and its supporters.

As a compensatory move, the AU, instead of refusing to recognise the reality that the Libyan National Transitional Council is now in charge in Tripoli, must now move in and ensure Libyans unite for the common good.

The AU must play an active role in helping build democratic institutions that will ensure Libya does not have another Muammar Gaddafi.

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