Same old issues as battered, bruised AU gears up for 60th bash

Sunday May 21 2023
Au heads

African leaders pose for a group photo during the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 18, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


The African Union celebrates its 60th anniversary on May 25, commemorating its achievements in the last six decades, from the time it was known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

But then as now, 20 years since it transformed to the African Union in 2002, the continental bloc faces more failures than successes, analysts say.

There are also differences in opinion on whether to assess the continental body from May 25, 1963, when the OAU was founded or base it from 2002 when the organisation got a new name and a new mandate.

Conflicts are just as prevalent now as in the 60s and the body struggles to make significant interventions, even though it now has sufficient legal framework to address issues of peace and security.

In 2020, it missed its target of ‘silencing the guns’, and the programme was pushed forward by a decade to the end of 2030. Fair enough, there was Covid-19 and other problems but so was the collective will against the vices that have caused conflict, observers argue.

Hardi Yakubu, a Ghanaian who is the coordinator of “Africa Rising” — a Pan-African movement that advocates Justice, Peace in the continent — attributes the failure to silence the gun to the inability of AU member state to work together while knowing that some of these conflicts are engineered outside the continent with the target on resources.


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“It is important for us to work assiduously to ensure that these guns are silenced. One of the reasons we are failing to achieve the targets is that some of these things are still within isolated individual countries' perspectives, and the only way to deal with insecurity is to work together. There is no single African country that can deal with the issue of insecurity on its own,” said Mr Yakubu.

In 2013, African leaders while marking the 50th Anniversary, came up with the Silencing of the Gun initiative as part of the African Agenda 2063 with the leaders resolving not to pass the burden of conflict to future generations. The objective was to free the African continent of wars, civil conflicts, humanitarian crises, human rights violations, gender-based violence, and genocide.

The southern African region has experienced a similar situation in that attacks in Mozambique’s northern region of Cabo Delgado prompted military intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Rwanda. The operations of the terrorist group expanded into countries such as Cameroon, Niger, Central African Republic and Chad.


Retired Ugandan diplomat, Harold Acemah, said that he is not surprised that the Au failed to meet the 2020 target because trends show that just like in the 1970s and 1980s, Africa is reverting to a situation where power comes from the barrel of the gun, not the ballot.

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“What is happening in Sudan now and what happened in Ethiopia not long ago show that the struggle for democracy in Africa has fallen on hard times and instead of marching forward, Africans appear to be marching back to the era of military coups and countercoups,” said Mr Acemah.

In Africa, according to the Geneva-based research centre, Small Arms Survey, about 80 percent of all small arms and light weapons are in the hands of civilians. The centre says that civilians, including rebel groups and militias, hold more than 40 million small arms and light weapons.

In 2019, a study by the African Union mapping arms flows in Africa expressed concerns that there were more firearms in the wrong hands compared with government-related entities that hold 11 million.

Prof Patrick Lumumba, a Kenyan lawyer and political commentator, says that it would be difficult to expect AU to meet some of its goals such as ending the conflict when 70 percent of its budget is funded by donors and well-wishers outside the continent.

The African Union’s programmes including peacekeeping, health and education are 97 per cent funded by donors including the EU, USA, China, Japan, Turkey and the World Bank.