The Herald (Harare)

25 January 2013

Africa: Time Africa Establishd Own Standby Force to Maintain Peace

editorial

AFRICAN leaders meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week for the 20th Ordinary Session of the AU General Assembly. This year will mark 50 years since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor of the AU.

The OAU was formed with two primary objectives: Firstly to promote the unity and solidarity of African states by acting as a collective voice pursuant to securing the continent's long-term economic and political future; and secondly to eradicate all forms of colonialism.

Surely the founding fathers of the OAU must be turning in their graves at the state of the organisation they believed would move the continent to a union government and act as a bulwark against the re-colonisation of the continent.

The AU, as currently constituted, is not what the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Haile Sellassie, and Alfred Sedor Senghor -- to mention just a few - had in mind when they met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 25, 1963 to launch the OAU.

It is not by accident that African leaders meet at a time Mali is on fire with French jets roaring overhead ostensibly to safeguard the territorial integrity of Mali from Islamic elements occupying the northern parts of the country.

France got into Mali without the blessing of the AU Peace and Security Council, which is the continental organ mandated to handle the continent's peace and security challenges.

Yet it should have been once bitten twice shy over Mali for the AU given that the Mali fiasco is part of the fallout from the Nato bombardment of Libya.

Security experts are agreed that the rebels that have occupied northern Mali are the same fighters the West armed in their offensive against Colonel Gaddafi.

What the Libyan and Malian situations have shown is that the AU is a far cry from the ideals espoused by the founding fathers.

And we hope as African leaders deliberate under the romantic theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance", they will introspect whether they have lived up to the dream of the founding fathers.

It is high time they stood up to be counted so that the continent does not become a playground for warmongers and all who wish to test the effectiveness of their weapons of war.

It is quite regrettable that the AU as currently constituted is a pale shadow of the OAU as it cannot even speak with one voice. The confusion, selling out and flip-flopping we have seen from the AU over Cote d'Ivoire, Libya and Mali has seriously dented the continental body's image.

There is thus serious need for introspection and the rediscovering of the spirit that motivated the launch of the OAU 50 years ago.

It appears we Africans haven't learnt anything from our engagement with Westerners over the past 48 years?

There is urgent need to send a message to Westerners and any would be aggressors that the AU is not just about annual convocations of lily-livered men but principled, independent leaders ready to defend their continent and member states from any aggressor.

To do that member states have to bankroll the operations of the organisation.

Revelations by Commission chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that over 90 percent of the AU budget is donor-driven do not bode well for the AU if it is to achieve its intended objectives.

The need for this cannot be over-emphasised given revelations made by a US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, that predicted that sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become as important a source of US energy imports as the Middle East. We all know what the US has been doing in the Middle East to lay its hands on resources.

The setting up of the so-called US Africa Military Command (Africom) should be a wake up call to African leaders.

There is need for a standby force to help maintain peace on the continent, and to also act as a deterrent to the Western war machine.

The time to wake up is now.

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