AU’s 20th anniversary brings mixed feelings on continental legacy | African Union
On July 9, the African Union (AU) turns 20 – and the debate over its effectiveness so far is once again up for grabs.
Founded in 2002 with 53 African countries as members, the AU becomes the successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which has been in existence since 1963. While the OAU focuses its efforts mainly on decolonizing and establishing diplomatic relations among its members, the AU was established to promote the economic development of the continent and maintain lasting peace.
In 2017, all 55 member countries in Africa became part of this organization after Morocco officially joined the group. After 33 years of absence.
Emmanuel Balogun, associate professor of political science at Skidmore College, New York, said that since its inception, AU has made undeniable achievements, including the agency’s progress in facilitating Member states play an important role in international policy negotiations.
“The AU in 2022 is an important player in the world, as evidenced by the recent meetings between the AU and the EU, the invitation of the President of Ukraine Zelenskyy to the African Union and the invitation of Putin to the president of the AU, Macky Sall goes to Sochi to discuss issues related to food security. for the Russian invasion,” he told Al Jazeera.
Experts also say that the creation of a number of tools by the AU, such as the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism as well as the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, has helped improve accountability and accountability. transparency of governments on this continent.
‘A final crisis of leadership’
However, some analysts argue that the AU’s role in mediating conflicts between member states and promoting unification remains the AU’s main weakness.
The Africa Reserve Force (ASF) was created to intervene in conflicts, such as in the case of war crimes or genocide such as in Rwanda in 1994, which resulted in up to one million deaths. in 100 days.
Mehari Taddele Maru, a professor at the European University Institute, told Al Jazeera: “The era of intervention and integration began with the transformation of the OAU into the AU in an attempt to answer a quest to find the root causes. new personality and redefining pan-Africanism. “[So] AU has launched a new vision and mission for the renaissance of Africa.
Maru, who previously served as an advisor to the AU Commission, said: “Two decades on, the AU is no longer a pan-African interventionist and integrator. “It looks like an airplane flying a lot lower than its stated altitude.”
Indeed, the list of current civil wars, armed conflicts and military coups in Africa remains alarmingly long.
For example, on October 25, 2021, the Sudanese military took control of the government in a coup. In Ethiopia, the government has been fighting rebel forces in the region since November 2020, thus triggering a humanitarian crisis.
Furthermore, tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to send the continent into a state of suspense. Although both sides are now diplomatically ready, armed groups that each country accuses of supporting, in an effort to destabilize the other, continue to wreak havoc on the DRC.
Sudan, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali are currently suspended by the AU for military coups, prompting many commentators to comment that Africa is stepping back into the 70s when such actions were the order of the day.
According to Maru, many crises have been made worse by institutions in Africa facing “the ultimate crisis of leadership” and their credibility “increasingly undermined by the lack of adequate measures.” decisive intervention”.
These challenges have led many to question whether the AU needs a strategic overhaul and repositioning.
“In many ways, the AU has taken steps to improve its responses to coups and other conflicts by creating tools to respond to unconstitutional changes in government as well as other conflicts. other peace and security issues on the continent,” Balogun said.
But the inconsistency in its responses has reduced the body’s efficiency, he added.
“For example, the AU has often taken a stronger stance against unconstitutional government changes in places like Madagascar in 2010, Guinea-Bissau in 2012, and is quick to condemn coup attempts in Burkina Faso (2014) and Burundi (2015),” said Balogun. “In recent cases, the AU has been quick to suspend members and condemn these actions but they have been silent about certain unconstitutional transitions (especially Chad).”
One of the AU’s other goals is to free trade and to regulate the economy to take advantage of the continent’s huge diversity, economic and demographic potential as a ready market – one of the largest. largest school in the world.
And it has come a long way on its way to achieving this.
The most recent example is the rollout of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2020, potentially the largest free trade area in the world. Balogun noted that it is an AU initiative to “create the prospect of real continental integration”.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, several African countries were among the fastest growing economies in the world. Investment in many startups in Africa has increased, and the tech sector in general is booming.
Until the pandemic slows the proceedings, the AU appears to be on a promising path towards achieving its goals of socioeconomic integration and sustainable economic development across the continent. Its efforts are currently focused on rejuvenating the economies of its member states as they grapple with the effects of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During the pandemic, it played an important role in tackling the virus on the continent. And while that episode undoes some of those gains, there are positive signs that AU can still better position itself as an umbrella for all.
“The AU is also one of the first regional blocs to adopt a multilateral response to COVID-19, as CDC Africa is a key partner with WHO in disseminating PPE and developing best practices,” Balogun said. about contact tracing. “There are also new challenges on the agenda for the time being [former Nigerian president Olusegun] Obasanjo and [former South African president Thabo] Mbeki, such as food security and climate change. The AU has made progress in working with key global partners on that front. “