Pan-Africanism for peace in Africa: the long journey ahead

Finding a Pan-Africanist solution to bring in peace and security within the continent takes more than a well crafted document 

Hallelujah Lulie, special to Addis Standard

The Common African Defense and Security Policy (CADSP), a Pan-Africanist and comprehensive peace and security document of the African Union, puts the indivisibility of the security of African States as its fundamental principle. The policy states that ‘the security of one African country is inseparably linked to the security of other African countries, and the African continent as a whole’. Any threat or aggression on member state of the Union, according to the document, is considered as a threat or aggression on all countries of the continent.

The Libyan uprising of 2010 which in 2011 evolved to be a destructive and cruel civil war was one of the most divisive conflicts the African continent has witnessed in recent memory. The interpretation and subsequent implementation of the UN Resolution 1973 imposing a no-fly zone in Libya faced fierce criticism for surpassing its mandate. The NATO bombing campaign and delivery of arms and training by western and other regional powers to the rebel fighters, who overthrew and later extra-judicially murdered former president of Libya Muammer Gaddafi was seen by many as unlawful and vulgar expression of narrow strategic interest.

The African Union, despite ‘acknowledging the legitimate demands of the Libyan people’ and proposing  a  five point road map to deal with the crisis, was unable neither to stop the killing of civilians nor to influence the parties to stop warring and resolve the crisis. Division and inaction at the AU justified the international intervention which had a clear agenda of regime change in Libya. Ironically, at the end of the civil war, Sirte, where all the well-crafted words of CADSP were adopted in 2004, was left in ruins, and the document unable to save the very city that gave birth to its name.

It is with the memory of Libya still fresh and the role of external powers in Africa still debated that the outgoing chair of the African Union and president of Benin, Thomas Boni-Yayi requested for a NATO intervention to fight the Islamists and Touareg rebels who seized power in northern Mali. In his statement on January 9, 2013 the President said that the Malian conflict was an ‘international question’ and called on NATO to intervene just as it had done in Afghanistan. Subsequently the French forces started aerial and ground operation in Mali without even notifying the African Union.

Once again Africa has failed itself and its pan-Africanist document of the Common African Defense and Security Policy (CADSP) left out to dry.

 ‘Integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’

The AU which celebrates its half a century existence this coming May envisions the creation of an ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa….driven by its own citizens.’ The vision has it that peace would be a pre and co-requisite for integration and prosperity. The institutional transformation from the OAU to AU emphasized on the departure from the non-interference policy of the OAU to a non-indifference stance by the new body. Most of AU’s energy, resources and time were spent on its peace and security agenda and the operationalization of the continental peace and security architecture that combines conflict prevention, resolution and management mechanisms.

To be fair, the continental organization has made a significant progress in establishing normative frameworks and strengthening the ability of regional organization like IGAD to prevent and respond to crisis in a timely manner. Though delayed, its most ambitious project, the idea of a single army for Africa, which was inspired by the Nkrumahist movement and recalibrated in a rather less receptive manner by the late Gaddafi, is undergoing. The AU claims the operationalization of the African Standby Force (ASF) in 2015 would create a collective defense mechanism against internal and external threats in the continent. For the first time in its history the AU Assembly also decided to use the AU budget to support peace and security operation by contributing $50 million to cover approximately 10% of the peace support operation in Mali even before the UN has allocated any funding for the mission.

 Finding the right start

However AU still suffers heavily from lack of political and financial commitment of its member states to its decisions and instruments. Some members have more loyalty to their former colonies or other strategic partners outside of the continent than the continental body. Contribution of member states for peace and security efforts of the Union is almost non-existent. According to a 2012 figure by the African Peace Fund, a financial component of the continental security architecture, donors have contributed more than 97% of the money for AU peace efforts throughout the continent, making situations difficult for the AU to make decisions in a pan-African spirit. Its impressive headquarters was built by the Chinese and a peace and security building is under construction fully funded by the German government. There are efforts to raise the contribution by member states and look for alternative source of funding in the continent, but prospects are grim in the near future.

AU’s weaknesses in implementing Pan-Africanism ideologies for peace and security within the continent emanate from the nature of the African states themselves, which are mostly undemocratic and poor, resulting in an endless instability. And the Union itself is more dictated by geographic proximity of the 54 countries that constitute it than a clear value for peace that defines the core objectives of what it means to be a member state. This plays its own roles in complicating the process of bringing more than 50 countries under one document dedicated to find lasting solutions for peace and security, which in turn gives plenty of justifications for external military intervention in the name of protecting civilians and prevention of war crimes within the continent.

The concept of Pan-Africanism to promote peace and security within the continent is heavily tied to the promotion of good governance, respect for human rights and strengthening of democratic institutions at the national level that they can also be reflected at the continental forum. It will also depend on creating a just society and development, like rebuilding the ruined city of Sirte.


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