Global Views
   Middle East & Africa
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 English Teaching
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
  Global Views
African Union Dull under Spotlight
By Hany Besada
CIGI Senior Researcher
A child refugee in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena

Thousands who fled the conflict in Darfur for safe refuge in Chad are now on the move yet again to escape unstable conditions in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, shining the spotlight on the African Union's inability to protect them. A steady flow of over 30,000 refugees and residents are emptying out of the city into neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and even back into Sudan after heavily armed rebels in hundreds of pickup trucks attempted to overthrow the government earlier last month resulting in the deaths of some 200 people.

Chadian President Idriss Déby declared a nationwide state of emergency following the violent raids, claiming such measures are important and urgent to maintain order. Both the Chadian President and the Bush Administration are blaming Sudan for the attempted coup, while Sudanese officials are calling the allegations "baseless." Aside from the finger pointing, the recent attacks and subsequent exodus raise a much larger problem at issue: the African Union's inability to protect civilians and quell violence in the continent as it erupts.

Since the African Union's inception in 2002, the pan-African body has lacked the funds and leadership to take effective action in the continent's troubled areas. AU contingents are rarely able to meet the critical mass requirements, and while troops are familiar with the surrounding environment they often lack the expertise to carry out a mission.

In the case of Darfur, the AU intervened in 2004 with its African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) but inadequate troop numbers and resources resulted in the force relinquishing leadership to the United Nations at the end of 2007 in order to form a joint peacekeeping force. The new hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is now operating in the region, but with fewer than 10,000 troops currently on the ground—the bulk of which are the original AU force, only now with blue helmets—it's still far short of the promised 26,000 to be deployed.

At least 450,000 people have died and 2.5 million displaced in the fighting between Sudan's government, Janjaweed Arab militias and rebel groups that began some five years ago. Now, as the hotspot area spills from western Sudan's Darfur region across the border into Chad, the UN-AU troops are faced with a potentially much larger mission than was first anticipated.

Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa, the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) finds itself in an equally uneasy position. In what the UN describes as "the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa," a mere 1,600 Ugandan peacekeepers together with a Burundian skeleton force of 150 troops are patrolling the poverty-stricken capital of Mogadishu alongside thousands of Ethiopian troops, currently deployed to support the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in its war against Union Islamic Courts (UIC) militias. Other African states are reluctant to deploy troops to the war-ravaged East African state over safety concerns. Here again, a less-than-obliging AU force that has been slow to intervene with the strong peacekeeping forces needed to help bring about increased stability and rein on the anarchy and violence tearing the country apart.

In neighboring Kenya, the African Union's failure to broker a peace deal in reaction to the recent political crisis further reflects its inability to act as a continental body—a body where faction leaders should be assembled to iron out their differences and where the international community should gather to discuss issues of stability and unity in the region. Outgoing African Union Chair and former Ghanaian President John Kufuor's lack of success in bringing peace to Kenyan warring factions and halting electoral violence to make way for a government of national unity portrays the organization's limitations to exert the influence and authority it aspires to project.

This year's African Union Summit held at the beginning of February in Addis Ababa gathered 52 heads of state to discuss the continent's industrial development—but the planned agenda was abandoned to address the escalating conflicts in Chad, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. Newly elected Chair of the assembly, President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete is facing a worrisome line up of issues that have so far hampered progress towards the union's mandated items of securing democracy, human rights and a sustainable economy for Africa. When adding to this already long list the badly flawed elections in Nigeria and rising border tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, it will be a massive feat if this leader's union will have accomplished much by the end of the year.

It comes as no surprise that the AU's disappointing interventions in Africa's security hotspots is a testimony to the paralysis that has afflicted the leaders' union since its inception. Its leadership is compromised and confidence in its ability to act in the best interest of the continent's most vulnerable populations is quickly eroding, not only in African capitals but increasingly in the West and beyond. Without a serious undertaking by African leaders to reform and restructure the AU's decision-making processes, resolutions passed at the annual summits will continue to flop without proper implementation and funding mechanisms will be go unsupported and fall short of the backing needed for peacekeeping missions. In its current state, this pan-African federation threatens to look more like its discredited predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, rather than a regional body capable of dealing with the most pressing security issues facing Africa.

Hany Besada is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Erica Dybenko is Research Information Officer at CIG .

Related Articles
    Turkey and the New Middle East
    Reaching Success or Reaffirming Failure: The ...
    Challenges of Social Progress in IBSA
    The Democratic Mudslide of Sudan
    Local Solutions That Address Climate Change
    Nowhere to Go
    A Maturing China-Africa Relationship
    Zimbabwe: From Africa's Breadbasket to Its ...
    Change of Scope for Land of Hope
    Sluggish Justice Emboldens Despots
    Sierra Leone's Defining Moment at Ballot Box
    Libya Mends Fences with Int'l Community
    Closing the Chapter on Impunity in Africa

Mr. Hany Besada is senior researcher and program leader, Health and Social Governance at the Centre for Int’l Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Canada. Mr. Besada’s research interests include African economic and political development, Middle East studies, int’l diplomacy, and conflict resolution. He holds an MA and a BA in Int’l Relations from Alliant Int’l University in San Diego, US.






The Seoul Times Shinheungro 25-gil 2-6 Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange