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post Leaders meet in Ethiopia

February 1st, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Samuel M. Gebru @ 02:16

African Leaders meet in Ethiopia

By: Samuel M. Gebru
January 31, 2011

Dozens of African heads of state and government converged this past weekend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the annual summit of the African Union (AU). The AU is the continental intergovernmental organization of African states headquartered in Addis Ababa. Dubbed the “Dictator’s Club” by the continent’s human rights activists, the AU is a successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that was founded in Addis Ababa with the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I as one of its founders.

The AU Summit featured the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, who addressed the African leaders in a keynote speech as the President of the G20. President Sarkozy cautioned the leaders, saying that unless they carefully listened to and addressed the grievances of their people, they could face serious public discontent. He was careful not to mention any particular state, except in the case of lambasting the Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo for refusing the step down, and Egypt and Tunisia.

Interestingly, Egypt and Tunisia were not discussed at the summit. Chairman Jean Ping of the African Union Commission, the AU secretariat in Addis Ababa, stated that the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt occurred too late to include in his report. It’s easy to tell that those civilian uprisings were the talk of the day though. Furthermore, leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria were conspicuously absent at the summit. This could very well be because the latter two are worried about possible uprisings.

Although exciting that President Sarkozy highlighted good governance and human rights, its unclear how far his words will go. Authoritarian governments, most who do not fear using live ammunition against their citizens, lead a great deal of AU member states. Particularly interesting about Egypt’s case is that the government is not firing live ammunition into the crowds of rioters, controlling them using water canons, tear gas and plastic bullets. President Sarkozy warned against using force to put down public protests:
“Allow me on this sensitive subject to speak very bluntly. I am going to speak as a friend, because one owes the truth to one’s friends. When faced with innocent victims, our consciences cannot but be pricked because violence from whatever sources is never a solution. Because violence only breeds more violence, because violence on all continents engenders misery and suffering.”

Some major issues that the AU has to contend with now include:

* The electoral dispute and subsequent violence in Cote d’Ivoire since November 28, 2010
* The Government of Kenya’s continental campaign against the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, seeking a common African stance against the ICC in hopes of deferring its court proceedings for the electoral violence in 2007-2008 and the court’s double standard on Africa
* The likely split of Sudan, Africa’s largest state and the implications of South Sudan’s sovereignty
* Maintaining, increasing or decreasing the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), where peacekeeping efforts are looking grim

Some of Africa’s leaders continue to be drunk on power and their actions are increasingly depicting that drunkenness at the African Union. It is profoundly unfortunate that what could and should be a very powerful organization is quiet on the issue of human rights. More unfortunate is perhaps the fact that not many, if any, African leaders have the moral high ground to criticize each other.

Africa’s problems certainly require African solutions but the mechanism to accomplish that vision has proven itself a sinking ship.

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