The Horn Of Africa States: Africa Needs A New Organization And Not The AU – OpEd


The African Union (AU) started as the Organization of African Unity, the OAU back in 1963, in the years of the giants like Kwame Nkrumah, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Julius Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Kenneth Kaunda, and many  of the continent’s first founders.  It was transformed into the African Union (AU) some twenty-two years ago in 2002 with a new Constitutive Act. The original primary mission of the organization was to liberate the continent from colonialism and to work towards the continent’s political and economic unity and integration. 

After 39 years, Africa noted that it was not really as successful as expected with respect to its original Wishlist. It had to be transformed to meet the new challenges of the continent and it was changed in 2002 to become the African Union, whose main mission remains to be a multi-faceted organization designed to achieve not only developmental goals but also diplomatic, security and humanitarian objectives in the continent. 

However, it remained as toothless as its predecessor, the OAU, with no powers given to its technical, legislative and/or judicial systems. It remains a club of the rulers of the continent where they can have petty talks and have coffee together and may even be able to play some games and sports together in the gracious and spacious offices built for it as a ‘gift’ by the Chinese. Perhaps the Chinese listen to everything one says in that building back in Peijing.

The tools of the organization were to be African from the start but since the organization was never really fully financed by its members, it was always co-financed by the very forces it was supposed to liberate the continent from and the same forces it was supposed to compete with in order to achieve a fundamentally free African continent able to manage its resources both material and human, in the economically competitive world at any time.

It is the nature of man to survive and compete over the limited resources of earth, oceans and space and to truly compete one needs to use one’s own resources and not carry out a begging bowl around the world begging the same forces which the continent is supposed to compete with. Naturally, it has failed in all of its missions and its activities are directed by non-African financiers of the continent and mostly from the old colonial countries.

The African Union, instead of sticking to protection of the borders inherited from colonial Europe, helped the breakdown countries like Sudan and other countries into parts, which fails the very purpose of uniting the continent. It still works with the foreign partners who finance it to break other countries of the continent, which makes it an instrument of colonialism and not an instrument of liberation or unifying the continent.

One of the main objectives of the African Union includes the promotion of the rule of law, peace and security of the continent, but under its gaze and full view, the DR Congo remains being torn apart, Somalia suffers from a civil war that is over three decades old, the South Sudan which it helped create is still under a civil war since the birth of that country, the Saharawi Republic has not seen the sun as yet, Sudan has entered into a civil war that no one knows how it will finish, and many of the Ex-French colonies are still free on paper only. It was an awakening to many people when three Sahelian countries recently carried out coups to remove the French-imposed leaders to free their countries, at last. 

Even other countries of the same region, like Senegal, Guinea and Gabon are now sniffing at the French, but the AU seems to be siding with the French. They cut many of these countries off and suspended them! Six of the countries of the continent are currently under suspension. They include Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Gabon, Guinea, and Sudan. Is suspension the only mechanism? Are they suspended because they said, ‘we do not want the French’?

But the double standards of the AU is glaring when the current Chairperson did not punish the coup that happened in his own country of Chad in 2021, when the father President of the current President of Chad died and his son took over power through a coup. The AU is thus seen as an instrument that serves not the balanced interests of the continent but the political interests of differing leaders and rulers in the different countries. Actually, it may be serving the interests of others, including non-Africans, and not the interests of the continent at all. 

The rule of law requires democratic processes but many of the members of the continent’s fifty-five countries have dictators who imposed themselves on their populations. Many countries are ruled by families whose father figures are ‘no kings’ but supposedly elected presidents. In some cases, the leaders stay in power for over twenty, thirty and even forty years. How is this related to the rule of law? They could be described in the eyes of Cicero as only tyrants, who have usurped powers no one bestowed on them. They destroy all opposition and then gather in their annual meetings in Addis Ababa!

The AU’s mandate includes fighting corruption and financial crimes but if the leaders are committing these crimes, how could the club they belong to be able to handle them with no specific mechanisms to manage crimes of this nature? Note the African Union is simply a club of the leaders of the African countries where they can have petty talks once a year, where many of them sleep in the long sessions of such annual encounters as is seen in the TV screens. They know many are delivering long speeches which they hardly understand and which were most probably written through strong persuasion by technical subordinates.

The populations of the African countries do not know each other, their businesses do not know each other, their legal firms do not know each other, their auditing and accounting forms do not know each other and many of the industrial, agricultural and commercial companies have no associations to air their views or learn from each other or present new ways of doing things. It is, indeed, a sorry type of organization which probably has lofty goals which it cannot achieve under its present format. There is, indeed, no African travel mechanisms, no African business associations, and no intra-African trade of consequence.

The African Union has no legal powers or executive powers and its resolutions are mostly wishes. Leaders in Africa are cruel and do not respect any rules. They cannot be stopped and especially when they, themselves, make the rules. They ignore them for there is no one to deter them when they err. If there were such rules to stop erring leaders, one would not have seen the same leaders in some countries coming back year after year for many years and never achieving anything – they make their countries open prisons for their own people. What does the African Union do about that? You would hear they were elected, which they were, indeed!

The African Union is no longer an institution that is required by the continent as it does not serve the continent but serves those who finance it. Africa needs to have a new institution whose members finance it, and own it, and which is empowered to carry out its duties and responsibilities, instead of presenting them as wish lists, like the current AU or its predecessor, the OAU.

The continent needs a new institution that does not hire old and failed leaders to lead just as it appears to be planning to do in the coming election of a new Chairperson in 2025. You cannot hire people who have caused major tribal clashes in their own countries and who have failed so many times even to be elected as president of their own countries. Africa needs a new institution that cannot hire either, persons who are indirectly working for non-continental powers. It does not need either an institution that uses retired old-age people who are barely able to manage their personal lives as advisors or handle serious matters involving some of its members.

Any leader, whether actually working as a staff member or as a consultant or advisor, should be healthy and energetic and within the working brackets of humanity. Skeletons do not produce anything of worth and the African Union appears to be full of those at present. No wonder the problems of countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique and others remain unsolved.

The AU does not need a reform process. It should be completely dismantled and a new organization that serves the continent should be created. Perhaps, even the headquarters should even be changed. The primary problem is not technical but an endemic and fundamental root issue. No tree with a deficient root system ever grows well, which is what the continental organization currently represents and which therefore needs to be cut down. A new tree should be planted, nurtured and made to grow better than the AU and the OAU.

The continent needs a functional supranational organization which corrects erring leaders and which can have its fundamental five regions organized as sub-organizations, namely Northern Africa, Western Africa, Central Africa, and Eastern Africa. The currently authorized regional organizations like ECOWAS, AMU, SADC, the EAC, the IGAD, and the others should all be dismantled. Streamlining the activities of the continental organization is important for both functional and operational issues. This would avoid duplications, cheating and double-dipping.

No leader should be allowed to last more than tens in power. They can organize this as one term or two terms of five years each. This is up to each country but the fundamental limitation of the rule of one person in power should never pass ten years, the period a person can be productive and during which one can oversee a pet project implemented. The best man and not the tribal man should be allowed to rule. At present, we do not see the African Union as a productive African organization but as a club of rulers which is fundamentally opposed to the rights of the African citizen. It is a club which serves the rulers of the continent and not its population. It is why it should be dismantled and a new organization built, to serve the continent and its people.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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