African Union (AU) Lets Down Africa

Since the disbandment of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) in 2002 to the new African Union (AU), there are still serious question in how effective the union operates. The former organisation was regarded as a ‘Dictators Club’, an expensive talk shop where former colonial heroes would preach on independence, yet stand by and watch the violation of human rights and corruption by their neighbours. Long standing wars such as in Angola, or the gross failure to intervene during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, admitted by the OAU as being ‘a shocking moral failure’, the creation of the AU was a way to prevent this happening again.

However since the appointment of the AU, there was not much done in Darfur despite the leaps taken forward in troop deployments from a paltry 150 to over 7 000 between 2004 to 2009. The downfall of Zimbabwe by President Mugabe has been allowed to continue until 2009, which points to the organisation not yet being capable of performing what it aims to be.

Another problem that the AU faced was firstly the situation that happened in Madagascar in 2009, where former president Marc Ravalomanana was ordered to leave by the military, who in turn installed his rival Andry Rajoelina. This was a move that was unconstitutional by the Southern African Development Community, however the African Union has only suspended their membership and they called it ‘an internal issue’, something made more complicating by the fact that the current head of the AU, Colonel Gaddafi informed Rajoelina that Libya would recognise his government.

A fully 6 months have passed since the events unfolded, and the threat of sanctions by the AU if democratic rule had not been returned within this time frame has elapsed, and no sanctions are being applied, whilst the Maputo talks on a transitional government are on-going. Lack of ending this impasse swiftly shows that not much has changed in the attitude and effectiveness of the AU.

The joke that is running around is that the ‘U’ in the African Union, stood for useless. After the hopeless failure of African diplomatic efforts to bring a peaceful end to Libya’s rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi, and even more since the union held back on recognising the new Libyan rulers, critics suggest the African Union could be making itself irrelevant.

What does this imply in terms of Africa’s perspective? Well the fact is the AU’s main priority is to develop and strengthen African countries‘ capabilities in ensuring adequate protection and promotion of intellectual property rights and making optimal use of intellectual property for sustainable economic, technological and cultural development. If the Union fails in these aspects, incapable to address problems acquiring in Africa and waiting for the West and EU to respond by action, Africa as a whole will struggle to be taken seriously in the world economy, because the AU represents Africa. The reputation of Africa will be in jeopardy, which has a negative spillover/impact on the Africa countries competiveness and FDI with the rest of the world.


JJ de Villiers


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