9 February 2010


The reign of Libya's Moammar el Gadaffi as Chairman of the African Union has ended in a petulant whimper rather than in a big bang for African unity as the Colonel had promised. He flounced out of the AU summit in Addis Ababa on 1 February after failing to cajole his fellow leaders into giving him a second, unconstitutional term as Chairman.
Offers of oil largesse to his usual supporters and then attempts to split the votes of a rival candidate all ran into the ground. Libyan diplomats candidly admitted that the AU was no nearer to his promised union government than it was when Gadaffi took over a year ago. Instead, Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika took over on 1 February with a call for food security across the continent and practical measures to eliminate childhood malnutrition – the cause of physical stunting and mental underdevelopment for perhaps a third of Africa's infants – within five years. Mutharika's heartening call is based on his own government's progress in boosting agricultural production with strong state interventionism, often against the advice of experts from the World Bank and European Union. No Western poodle, Mutharika is a staunch ally of his neighbour President Robert Mugabe and remonstrates with British officials for interfering in Zimbabwe. Yet the relative success and local popularity of his farm policies makes it difficult for Whitehall to pick a public quarrel with him.
Gadaffi suffered a double blow in Addis Ababa. As well as foiling his bid for another term, the summit passed sweeping new rules that allow the AU to impose sanctions on regimes that seek to extend their rule through unconstitutional means. As the beneficiary of a military coup himself (against Libya's King Idriss in September 1969), Gadaffi's instincts were to indulge military usurpers such as the Guinean and Mauritanian putschists and even the Malagasy disc jockey Andry Rajoelina, who harried Marc Ravalomanana from power in Antananarivo in March (AC Vol 50 No 20).
In a stab at Maghreb solidarity, Tunisia's delegation suggested a special dispensation might be arranged for Gadaffi in view of his immense contribution to the AU. Tripoli has lavished more cash on the AU, its summits and its delegations than most of the other North African members combined. The Tunisian blandishments failed. Delegates from the Southern African Development Community were determined to get their candidate – Mutharika – into the job. It was a late revenge for South Africa's ex-President Thabo Mbeki, who had frequently and irritably clashed with Gadaffi on matters of high policy at AU summits. Tripoli's last-minute lobbying for Lesotho, in an attempt to split the SADC bloc, just left a sour taste.
On his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, South African President Jacob Zuma (whose ascendancy in the governing African National Congress Libya has strongly supported) stopped over in Tripoli on 25 January to persuade Gadaffi to drop his bid. Discreet negotiations continued on the eve of the summit on 30 January but formal discussions on the chairmanship were brief. According to a delegate from Swaziland, the decision to appoint Mutharika took less than two minutes.
Gadaffi invited a representative from the Forum of African Traditional Leaders to take the podium following speeches by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Spanish President José Luis Zapatero, to the surprise of the delegates. He spoke brusquely, accusing fellow leaders of lacking political awareness, before handing over to Mutharika.
Gadaffi said that during his tenure, declarations had been made on behalf of the AU of which he was not even aware. He complained that he was not allowed to represent the AU at international meetings. Gabon's Jean Ping, the Chairman of the AU Commission, and Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi, represented the AU at the Group of Twenty (G-20) and G-8 meetings last year because Gadaffi was thought incapable of representing the AU. In a final humiliation, he failed to get Libya a seat on the African Development Bank, based in neighbouring Tunis, after trying to circumvent the usual procedures.
Questions emerged over the AU's own financial plans. It is widely criticised for its complex bureaucracy but delegates approved a 58% increase in the Commission's budget, to US$217.5 million for the next year. Almost half of its budget comes from outside Africa and many member states remain in arrears.
The AU's Commissioner for Infrastructure, Elham Ibrahim, said progress on continental energy projects and infrastructure was being held up. A decade ago, Mbeki and the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, helped to launch the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which envisaged spending some $80 billion a year on infrastructure to boost African economies. Current spending is less than a quarter of that and most is financed by credits from China.
Before International Criminal Court appeals judges ruled on 3 February that the Pre-Trial Chamber must review previously dismissed genocide charges against Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir, the summit backed a South African move to give the UN General Assembly the means to defer cases at the ICC by a year. South Africa's efforts relate to the ICC's warrant for the arrest of Field Marshal Omer on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, which African member states of the ICC are legally bound to execute. Tshwane (Pretoria) and some other African capitals had got no response from the UN Security Council after they asked it to defer action on the Sudan case, lest it derail peace negotiations. Security Council members, including Sudan's friends in Beijing and Moscow, ignored the request.
The summit declared 2010 a year of peace and security as it intensified efforts to ratify the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (adopted by the Organisation of African Unity in 2000 and by the AU in 2007). So far, 29 states have signed the Charter but only three have ratified it – Ethiopia, Mauritania (which signed just before the 2009 coup) and Sierra Leone. The summit published a report which concludes that 'the AU should have a "zero tolerance" policy on coups d'_tat, it should also show the same firmness with regard to transgressions in democratic standards which, if persistent and repeated, could lead to unconstitutional changes of government.'
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh wrote to Ping on 26 January to request that Eritrea not be discussed in its absence. Osman complained that Ethiopia had denied Eritrea the diplomatic privileges and the right to participate in AU summits in Addis. Ping denied this and urged Eritrea to participate in AU meetings. The summit welcomed the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1907, which imposes sanctions on Eritrea for undermining peace and stability in Somalia.
Many countries which the summit voted on to the Peace and Security Council are likely to be items for discussion there. Countries named for a three-year period are Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Those named for a two-year period include Benin, Burundi, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Rwanda and South Africa. AU diplomats are threatening sanctions against Madagascar, where interim President Rajoelina has broken up a power-sharing government, sacked its Prime Minister and looks determined to hold legislative elections in March.

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