BY SIMON HAGOS *
African Union (AU), formerly known as Organization of African Unity (OAU) is an intergovernmental organization established in 2002 to promote unity and solidarity of African states.
OAU was founded on May 25, 1963 on grounds of building economic development and international cooperation between African countries. It is worth noting that OAU was thriving in ambassadorial activities and border dispute mediations.
Throughout its existence, OAU showed exemplary achievements in interceding disputes like Algeria and Morocco (1963-1964) and Kenya and Somalia (1965-1967). It advocated international economic sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid regime in that country. It actively partook in peacemaking and peacekeeping activities on the continent. This was enormous accomplishments.
The exemplary accomplishments of OAU with all its limitations and glitches used as a model for the creation of an organization.
AU received huge interest within the African community. After the ratification of a Constitutive Act, it was perceived as a timely move which provided for the establishment of the African Union (AU). It was ratified by two-thirds of the OAU’s members and came into force on May 26, 2001.
Then after a transition period, the African Union replaced the OAU in July 2002. In 2004 the AU’s Pan-African Parliament was inaugurated, and the organization agreed to create a peacekeeping force, the African Standby Force, of about 15,000 soldiers. It was very encouraging move by the AU at the time.
But, there exist significant questions that transcends the work African Union claim to have irrefutably triumph over the last 20 years. Is AU still struggling for its pertinence? Is AU incompetence in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border demarcation process antithetical to its fundamental principles? Can AU claim to be fair and equitable considering its mum to Ethiopia’s belligerence towards Somalia? And where does its budget come from?
These are some imperative and unnerve questions that are ominous to the validity and integrity of the organization.
Where does its budget come from? What have AU achieved since 2002?
The Master-Slave relationship:
According to the economist, 70% of AU’s budget comes from non-African donors. Its daunting reality for such dysfunctionality. It is unnerving authenticity that, the AU receives huge donation from “imperialists” like the US, and EU who for the past 50 years exert their influence to hijack its affluence and employ its intercontinental organizations like IGAD to take a hostage the whole continent. The consequences of this reliance made it incomprehensible for AU to copiously accomplish its core objectives and control its agendas like reducing poverty, education, health etc.
- Since its creation in 2002, AU fully supported the EU and USA of “creating chaos and manage them” strategy. For example, the intervention in Libya, South Sudan and Somalia etc.
- So far AU could not achieve one of its fundamental principles of poverty reduction. According to the world bank; more people are poor today than in 1990. In 1990 Africa had 280 million people living below the poverty line and in 2012, the number rose to 330 million people.
- Two in five adults are still illiterate and violence is on the rise.
This daunting reality intricate the preachment of promoting economic growth and reducing poverty while funded immensely. It has been an excruciating if not bewildering circumstances for average Africans. With this “Master-Slave relationship”, AU have become a personification of dependability, conditionality, and scrounger.
The very positive but concerning relationship with China:
Over the last couple of years, China emerged as the largest trading partner in the continent. For instance, China fully funded the 200 million-dollar state of the art headquarters in Addis Ababa for AU. Its investment in Africa soared by 515% from 2015 to 2016 which contributed to 413% surge in job creation in the continent.
This in on top Chinese president Xi Jingping promise of a 600-Billion-dollar loan program to Africa during his visit to the AU summit in Johannesburg.
Thus far, Chinese investing companies are good at creating local jobs. In one study, Chinese companies operating in over 40 African countries have created 80% local jobs. And in some studies, the percentage can go up to 99%.
The biggest attraction for most African countries to see China as long-term partner in investment, trading and mining sectors is the fact that, ideologically and philosophically, China see no reason to involve in the politics of the country they involve with. But, in the longer run, China will show its muscle in influencing the politics of those countries at least on the background considering how much money China is investing in those countries.
Why is China investing heavily in Africa? And why does Africa see no ramifications with this kind of huge funding from a future supper power?
From a political perspective, foreign aid are tools. They are not pure messianic activity. Even during the Cold War, foreign aid was employed both by USA and USSR to gain political and diplomatic supports from African countries. From a Chinese perspective, their aid is designed to compete simultaneously with the “imperialists” like the United States and the EU.
As an organization, AU is running from one master to another one. If, the EU and USA are funding 70% of its budget, then in a longer run, China will take over. And, how is it plausible argument that an organization funded by China to be different? After all, China is an ambitious supper power.
Is AU incompetence in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border demarcation process antithetical to its fundamental principles?
As the standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the implementation of the EEBC’s final and binding decision shows no sign of resolution, TPLF’s diabolical foreign policy strategies and its own failed policy of “No Peace, No War” with Eritrea for the past 16 years is exposing how incompetent and indecisive AU has been.
This is the biggest elephant in the room that could be heading to an avenging ending if AU keep failing to hold Ethiopia responsible and pressure the government in Addis Ababa to allow the final implementation of the EEBC decision. AU was one of the guarantors of the Algiers agreement.
Since the EEBC decision on the border issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea, AU collaborated hand in hand with the government of Ethiopia in creating a narrative that Eritrea destabilizes the Horn of Africa. Granted, the regime in Ethiopia have been very successful in using Eritrea as a scapegoat of its own failed policies both inside Ethiopia and throughout the region. But this subversions and provocations mounted towards Eritrea could not have achieved without AU and IGAD.
Recently, AU concluded its 29th session in Addis Ababa. This made it 18 times out of 29 where the session held in the same city where the government is accused of hegemonizing the organization. It is getting harder for AU to get out of the shadows of the government of Ethiopia. Extreme as it might sound, certain political analysists see AU as another bough of the ministry of foreign affairs of the government of Ethiopia.
How can AU be trusted with the Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute?
Within the context of “regional stability”, the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea has been significant issue in this region for the past 10 years. The imperativeness and essentiality of securing this “regional stability” both to the Horn of Africa and the Middle East has prompted the GCC to look this crisis as one that can ensure economic progress. But one important question that needs to be addressed is, why AU and IGAD has not shown urgency to solve this dispute both from the perspective of interest and objectivity?
Qatar have been mediating the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti since 2008. And before Qatar imbued in to the mediating role, AU and IGAD showed no earnestness to fill the gap and secure the political stability within the region. But, either because of its political motivation or inability to confront a crisis with such magnitude, the organization secluded itself. And, this created another missed chance for AU to show its intention and commitment of securing peace and stability within the Horn of Africa.
After 9 years of mediation process between the two countries and a decade long serenity in the border, in June 2017, the sudden eruption of the gulf crisis spilled its effect into the Horn of Africa and beyond. This abrupt crisis within the gulf states invented a new crisis in the horn in which Djibouti’s foreign minister accused neighboring Eritrea of occupying a disputed territory along their border shortly after Qatar peacekeepers left the location.
During the 29th annual summit conducted in Addis Ababa, the AU Commission Chairman, Dr Moussa Faki, made an announcement that the block will send a team to the contested area. He said, “we will implement the mechanism enshrined on our text of the African Union in consultation with IGAD.” But, why should Eritrea trust IGAD? And why should it be a plausible argument that Eritrea needs to work with an organization that was deliberately crafted as a buffer zone strategy and instigating factor a regime in Ethiopia? There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that, the AU have become a stake in the decade long strategic exercise of “Pedal of Deterrence” played by countries in the region. For example, Djibouti’s role in supporting Eritrean opposition groups.
In his research study titled, “Ripeness and the 2008 Djibouti-Eritrea Border Dispute”, Kevin K. Frank from University of Southern Mississippi, stated “regarding conflict mediation, the failure of the regional organizations notably the African Union and IGAD, to initiate such action calls into question the ability of these regional security brokers to accomplish one of their fundamental tasks.”
Forget neutrality and objectivity, the tag of war between Djibouti and Eritrea occurred at a time when the strategic balance within the East Africa shifted dramatically ever since the gulf states decided to claim the region as their neighboring influence. This move has made AU and IGAD tactically isolated. And it’s also a time when Eritrea which owns more than 1000 km coastal line in the red sea playing significant role in the region. Eritrea is becoming “the jugular of the red sea.” It is the artery of the whole region.
One of the biggest hurdles and complexities AU faces after half a century of its existence is, it has no control of its own agendas. Merely an extension of powers with an interventionist foreign policy, AU’s message of solidarity and economic progress is nothing but a wrecked promise writhing to be enlivened. Most of its leaders have been in power for decades with trivial difference to make in their own country. They have an outmost commitment in supporting each other to stay in power than working with each other to shape the narrative and control their own agendas.
* Asmara Times Media Organization