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Peace, prosperity still elude Africa



AS Zimbabwe and the continent commemorated Africa Day on 25 May, the possibility of a world in which it would be permissible to attain collective peace enforcement remains aspirational.


This 60th anniversary is being celebrated under the slogan: “Our Africa Our Future” using the hashtag #OurAfricaOurFuture. Under its Agenda 2063, the African Union (AU) has committed to bring peace through its “silencing the guns by 2020” objective, which is largely a mirage.

 In critically analysing the possibility of peace on the continent, the concept of collective security and the efficacy of the AU has been brought to the fore.

Political scientists say since its transformation from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) some two decades ago, the AU had has noble but grandiose goals and objectives, principally focused on intra-state, regional, continental peace and stability.

It also created the infrastructure for achieving these goals. The continent, home to over 1.4 billion people, is bruised. Somalia has been relegated to a failed state and closer to Zimbabwe, Mozambique is in turmoil.

Further up the continent, Sudan is ravaged by conflict. Some blame the competing interests of superpowers while others point the finger to the dearth of Pan-Africanism for the fragmentation.

Eldred Masunungure, a leading scholar at the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Governance and Public Management, said failure to deal with conflict on the continent had blemished the AU.

“Regrettably, its record of achievement has been rather paltry with the possible exception of Ecowas in West Africa which now appears to be faltering of late,” Masungure says in a written response to questions sent by The NewsHawks.

“The inability, despite the rhetorical willingness, to positively intervene in the Sudanese crisis is an indictment and a blemish on the AU’s performance record. In short, the AU still has to convert its rhetoric and aspirational commitment to peace into reality. In this regard, it compares quite poorly with its EU counterpart from which it drew its inspiration.”

 Stephen Chan, professor of international politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, says the AU at present has no capacity to engage in timely and efficacious collective peace enforcement.

“There are four reasons for this,” Chan says.

“A reluctance to utilise the doctrine of ‘responsibility to protect’, born out of a continuing adherence of respect for sovereign borders. A lack of logistical capacity, i.e. the ability to deliver troops and supplies to any trouble spot in a swift manner.

“There are insufficient air transport and troop-carrying planes. The lack of any unified military protocol or command structure for military units drawn from different nations. The out-dated nature of conventional military doctrine and heavy equipment, when most insurgent forces, e.g. in Mali before the French intervention, utilise strategies and equipment designed for great speed and mobility.”

The rise of extremism and terrorist groups operating is destabilising the continent.

“Foreign interests are not militarily destabilising the continent, e.g. Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are not foreign forces,” Chan says.

 “The current war in Sudan was not started by foreign interests. Lack of good governance and equality for all sections of the community, selfish pillaging and corruption are far more responsible for violence than anything engineered by any foreign force.” Masunungure, on the other hand, says the competing interests of superpowers growing their interest on the continent is also threatening stability on the continent.

 “The malign effects of global power politics on Africa are a legacy of the Cold War competition which had ebbed in the decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union,” he adds.

“However, the world is witnessing a resurgence of militarised power politics at the regional and state levels as again manifestly exemplified in Sudan and the Sahel region. Lamentably, the AU has proved inadequate if not impotent in countering these global gladitiations for power and supremacy.”

Collective security as a concept provides for a number of states pooling their resources to achieve the common safety of their citizens. It is based on the principle that views an attack on any member of the collective as an attack against all.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) as a military organisation was formed after the Second World War as an umbrella body that provided collective security for Western Europe to ward off threats of the westward spread of communism posed by the Soviet Union. The concept of collective security has a long history in the relationship among states.

Key proponents of collective security are Immanuel Kant, Hans Morgenthau and A.F.K. Organski. The liberal view point on collective security is informed by the writings of Kant who advocated perpetual peace (Kant, 2010).

In this regard the Liberal view point is that international organisations should stop potential aggressors to prevent a war as opposed to responding with force as is the dictum of collective security. Badalan (2009:73) asserts that peace can only be preserved through international law, international organisations, political integration and democratisation.

Nato intervention in Libya had serious implications on the AU framework for peace security. Experts say Africa as a continent is now vulnerable and prone to future interventions by external actors because they saw that the AU could not protect it and also countries in the AU had many differences which they could not put aside so that they could work together on the Libyan conflict.

 According to British researcher on politics and politics Alex De Waal, Africa was fragmented over Libya raising questions over the AU’s capacity to foster unity.

Zimbabwe’s late former president Robert Mugabe and Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni did not hide their support for Gaddafi. Mugabe and Gaddafi were close friends who shared the same perspectives which perceived the West as enemies.

South Africa’s then president Jacob Zuma was very ambiguous, while Ethiopia and Nigeria sought Gaddafi’s exit. This rift in the AU threatened regional peace and security as there was apparently factionalism based on the Libyan conflict and Nato intervention.

On 24 February 2014, there was a meeting held in London to find ways of addressing threats to global security emanating from the Somalia conflict. This meant Western powers effectively ignoring the AU’s ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict.

The AU’s quest for security and governance was downgraded by Nato’s intervention in Libya. The meeting was held for an African country but they did not include the AU, clearly showing that they are not afraid of infringing on the principles of the AU and its norms.

Africa was now prone to future interventions and this would disrupt the AU’s decision-making process on peace and security issues.

As Africa reflects on the 60th anniversary of the OAU/AU, the bloc should actualise its original goal of African unity as encapsulated in its original name, Masunungure added. “Paradoxically, the AU’s original sin is disunity and mindless divisions in the face of global powers that use it as their playing ground,” he says.

“It is embarrassing and humiliating in the extreme that the two countries involved in attempts to resolve the Sudanese near-civil war are both non-African i.e., the USA and Saudi Arabia, while the 54 African countries individually and collectively watch helplessly.

 “The salutary lesson is captured in an African proverb: ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ That spirit of togetherness is yet to be translated into collective continental action in the face of collective problems. The slogan ‘African solutions for African problems’ still rings rather hollow.”

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