ADDIS ABABA – IF anything could be learnt from the 26th edition of the African Union (AU) summit, it is that the expression, “two heads are better than one” does not always ring true.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA RECENTLY IN ETHIOPIA
The AU summit was marred by failure of the more than 30 African Heads of State present to tackle pertinent continental crises. These crises include the threat of Boko Haram in West Africa, Al Shabaab in East Africa, presidential term limits, the crisis in South Sudan and the genocide happening in Burundi.
Although, the heads of state did speak about the serious threat posed by terrorism and made resolutions to tackle the problem, Burundi, however, kept them divided.
Analysts were not expecting any meaningful action on Burundi, as it is believed that sending troops would start a trend on the continent that would make other heads of state in power potentially liable to the same kind of treatment, especially ones that have been long serving.
The main issue concerning Burundi was whether or not to send a peace-keeping mission that is already on standby ready for deployment to stop the growing violence in the country, but, as the case always is in Africa despite its unsuccessful rate, the consensus reached was to send a high level delegation to do an assessment of the situation, engage both government and the opposition. In other words, it was decided to do more talking.
This, despite the fact that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni led failed dialogue talks between Burundi’s government and the opposition held at the Ugandan capital of Kampala last year.
AU Peace and Security commissioner Smail Chergui in a Press briefing said the heads of state admitted that the violence was of concern and dialogue had not caused much traction.
“The general assembly decided to send a delegation of the highest order to that country to discuss with the Burundian government and if they accept, will lead to disarmament of the militia, gathering all weapons, training police and the army,” Chergui said.
The Burundian government was also given the authority to decide whether the troops should come although the President Pierre Nkurunziza-led government is an interested party.
“The government of Burundi is hostile to the standby force. Its primary function would be to disarm the anti-government militia and collect all arms in that country…There is no desire to occupy Burundi. A standby force would just be a measure to allay everyone’s fears and concerns,” Chergui said.
The AU Security Council consists of 15 countries, namely Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Region, Kenya, Egypt, Zambia, Nigeria, Burundi, Chad, Rwanda, Uganda, Algeria, Botswana, South Africa, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
Under Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU states, peacekeeping operations and interventions can be launched in grave circumstances such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of which Burundi breached all three and yet there is no meaningful response.
The African heads of state decided to give a standing ovation to the yearly argument for the UN Security Council to include two African countries following a fiery speech short on diplomacy by President Robert Mugabe at the recent UN Assembly meeting.
The story has long since been put on a back burner and a topic for discussion for 20 years as it is believed that the African leaders would use this platform to stop interventions of human rights violations, war crimes and political unrest in African countries.
In his last Press briefing held towards the end of the AU Summit, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said member states of the UN should show unity rather than promoting their own individual elements.
“The member states should show some unity of purpose rather than promoting their own individual elements. When the member states are engaging base on their national and regional interest then I do think that UN Security Council reform will be realised,” Ban ki-moon said.
“Even when the AU, while they have made their proposals in the AU name when you get down to the details, I think the AU has different views among the members, so it is important that they speak with one voice.”
The failure to act on Burundi has proved that despite having an article for intervention, the AU is not doing much to instill confidence in the international community. This, coupled with the failure to discuss presidential term limits, raises questions on whether the continent is ready for international integration.
President Mugabe’s speech confirmed that Africa remained divided as some hailed the speech while others were less than enthusiastic as evidenced by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa who remained indifferent.
Mugabe directed the barbs against the United Nations Secretary-General Ki-moon and threatened that the AU would pull out of the UN, which many analysts found strange as he was the outgoing chair and could not be speaking on behalf of the continent.
“We will fight a fight for our own as Africans, we are Africans, if we decide that down with the UN. We are not members of it, others are real members of it, and we are artificial members of it and cannot continue to be artificial members of it,” Mugabe said.
But, he did not stop there as he went on a racist tirade even using the term “pink-nosed people” which garnered more support.
“Former president Jakaya Kikwete was telling me the other day that, oh no, your party Chama Cha Mapinduzi had been in power for too long you must now allow another party to take over. Is that democracy? And that was coming from Europe. Tell them to shut their mouths,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe offered help to the new AU chairperson President of Chad Idriss Deby in his capacity as outgoing chairperson before stressing he will remain Zimbabwe’s president “until God says I will be going to join the others.”